Bible as cheap as a cup of coffee is hot seller in France

January 14, 2008

Bibles“The treasure of humanity … for the price of a coffee.”

With an ad slogan like that and a price of only €1.50 ($2.20), the Bible has become a hot seller in France. In the last four months of 2007, French shoppers snapped up 200,000 copies of a new low-cost edition — as many as are usually sold in a year — in hypermarkets, a leading book chain and in religious bookshops. Another 300,000 have been bought in French-speaking Africa, Belgium, Canada and Switzerland.

The Geneva Bible Society says the new translation (only into French) is meant to be for those who’ve never read the Bible before. “The sentences are shorter and the vocabulary more understandable,” its director Jean-Pierre Bezin told the French daily Le Parisien.

But isn’t France such a secularised country? Frederic Lenoir, editor of Le Monde des Religions, said many French no longer believe in God or attend church but they could not ignore the role of Christianity in western culture. “There are many biblical references in films and books these days and they think it’s useful to know the Bible,” he said. “They wouldn’t spend €25 to buy one, but they’re tempted by €1.50.”

The translation is called Segond 21, after the 19th-century Geneva theologian and Bible translator Louis Segond. The Geneva Bible Society has put two examples of it online in PDF — the Book of Isaiah and the Epistle to the Romans.

Buying a Bible just because it’s so cheap sounds a bit odd. There are so many reasonably priced editions around that I’d think anyone who wanted one would be ready to pay for it. Would you buy a Bible only if it sold at rock-bottom prices?

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