The Bible as my Witness

Digital Bibles, Visual Anonymity, and Performative Iconicity

Authors

  • Dorina Miller Parmenter Spalding University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/post.20399

Keywords:

Bible societies, evangelism, iconic dimension, Protestants, witnessing

Abstract

Digital Bibles, recently available in a variety of formats on electronic devices such as phones, tablets, and e-readers, have prompted discussions among Christians about their Bible-reading preferences and analyses by scholars about the outcomes of different kinds of biblical reading practices. Rather than focusing on the semantic dimension of users’ encounters with biblical texts in various media, this paper will consider how digital Bibles relate to Christians’ concerns about biblical visibility, or the act of being seen reading a recognizable Bible. In some cases, digital Bibles are lauded as exceeding the benefits of the printing press to spread God’s word throughout the world, for they can operate subversively and inconspicuously in circumstances where being seen with a print Bible is hazardous or undesirable. But in other contexts, Christians are encouraged to abandon their invisible digital Bibles and enact visible performances with their iconic print Bibles as an essential aspect of witnessing.

References

Azpen Innovation. 2021. “My e-Bible 7” e-Reader.” Azpen. https://azpenpc.com/products/azpen-my-e-bible-tablet-a747-7-inch-tablet Accessed 23 April 2021.

Barna Group. 2019. “American Bible Society State of the Bible 2019.” https://americanbible.org/uploads/content/state-of-the-bible-2019_report_041619_final.pdf Accessed 27 April 2021.

Barrett, Matthew. 2013. “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church.” The Gospel Coalition. 18 August. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/dearpastor-bring-your-bible-to-church/ Accessed 23 April 2021.

Bible Project. 2021. “Witness.” Bible Project. https://bibleproject.com/learn/witness/ Accessed 29 April 2021.

Campbell, Heidi A., and Garner, Stephen. 2016. Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Chalcraft, David J. “Towards a Sociology of Promise Box Use.” In Jewish and Christian Scripture as Artifact and Canon, edited by C. A. Evans and H. D. Zacharias, 280–297. London: T&T Clark.

Dyer, John. 2017. “The Habits and Hermeneutics of Digital Bible Readers: Comparing Print and Screen Engagement, Comprehension, and Behavior.” Presentation to the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. Boston.

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. 1979. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021121400026225 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021121400026225

———. 1983. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Engelke, Matthew. 2007. A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0395264900022757 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0395264900022757

Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN). 2012. “World’s Three Major Bible Ministries Partner with Philanthropists to Create the Digital Bible Library.” PR Newswire. 13 December. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/worlds-three-major-bible-ministries-partner-with-philanthropists-to-create-the-digital-bible-library-183374871.html Accessed 29 November 2020.

Eyal, Nir. 2013. “The App of God.” The Atlantic. 24 July. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/the-app-of-god/278006/ Accessed 11 November 2020.

Gaille, Brandon. 2017. “29 Good Bible Sales Tactics.” Brandon Gaille Small Business and Marketing Advice. 27 May. https://brandongaille.com/27-good-biblesales-statistics/ Accessed 23 April 2021.

Harrington, Katherine, and Farrand, Tess. 2019. “Hardcopy Bible or Digital Bible: Which One is Better?” Movie Guide. https://www.movieguide.org/news-articles/hardcopy-bible-or-digital-bible-which-one-is-better.html Accessed 7 November 2020.

Hoezee, Reagan. 2015. “Wycliffe Associates Launches God’s Word on Demand.” Mission Network News. 20 July. https://www.mnnonline.org/news/wycliffeassociates-launches-gods-word-on-demand/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

“Holy Bible Phone Case Compatible with the Samsung Galaxy s9.” 2021. Walmart. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Holy-Bible-Phone-Case-Compatiblewith-the-Samsung-Galaxy-s9-Wallet-Style-with-Card-Slots/911974757 Accessed 17 April 2021.

Hutchings, Tim. 2015. “’The Smartest Way to Study the Word’: Protestant and Catholic Approaches to the Digital Bible.” In Negotiating Religious Visibility in Digital Media, edited by Miriam Diez Bosch, Josep Lluis Micó, and Josep Maria Carbonell, 57-68. Barcelona: Blanquerna Observatory on Media, Religion, and Culture.

Jackson, Griffin P. 2014. “8 Reasons You Should Bail on Your Bible App and Get Back to Your Hardcopy.” Griffin Paul Jackson. 7 April. https://griffinpauljackson.com/2014/04/07/8-reasons-to-bail-on-bible-apps/ Accessed 8 December 2020.

Life.Church. 2020. “The Bible App.” YouVersion. https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/ Accessed 28 November 2020.

———. 2021a. “Find Your Rhythm. Draw Closer to God.” YouVersion. https://www.youversion.com/ Accessed 23 April 2021.

———. 2021b. “Infographics.” YouVersion. https://blog.youversion.com/infographics/ Accessed 23 April 2021.

Magdalein, Scott. 2016. “The Dark Side-Effects of Bible Apps.” Scott Magdalein [blog]. 18 July. https://medium.com/@scottmagdalein/the-dark-sideeffects-of-bible-apps-2d2d17722aab Accessed 27 April 2021.

Malley, Brian. How the Bible Works: An Anthropological Study of Evangelical Biblicism. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

Mathis, Caleb. 2020. “5 Ways to Ingest More Bible in 2020.” Crossroads Church. 1 January. https://www.crossroads.net/media/articles/5-ways-to-ingestmore-bible-in-2020 Accessed 11 November 2020.

Ostling, Richard N. 1989. “Religion: High-Tech Bible.” Time. 30 October. http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,958894,00.html.Accessed 17 April 2021.

Ozment, Steven. 1980. The Age of Reform: 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Parmenter, Dorina Miller. 2009. “The Bible as Icon: Myths of the Divine Origin of Scripture.” In Jewish and Christian Scripture as Artifact and Canon, edited by C. A. Evans and H. D. Zacharias, 298–310. London: T&T Clark.

———. 2010. “A Fitting Ceremony: Christian Concerns for Bible Disposal.” In The Death of Sacred Texts: Ritual Disposal and Renovation of Texts in World Religions, edited by Kristina Myrvold, 55–70. Farnham: Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.38256

———. 2013. “The Iconic Book: The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals.” In Iconic Books and Texts, edited by James W. Watts, 225–238. Sheffield: Equinox.

———. 2018. “How the Bible Feels: The Christian Bible as Effective and Affective Object.” In Sensing Sacred Texts, edited by James W. Watts, 27–38. Sheffield: Equinox.

———. 2019. “Being the Bible: Sacred Bodies and Iconic Books in Bring Your Bible to School Day.” Postscripts 10(1–2): 53–69. https://doi.org/10.1558/38256 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/post.38256

Phay, Mark. 2017. “Four Reasons to Bring Your Bible to Church.” For the Church. 23 May. https://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/four-reasons-tobring-your-bible-to-church Accessed 8 December 2020.

Rakow, Katje. 2017. “The Bible in the Digital Age: Negotiating the Limits of ‘Bibleness’ of Different Bible Media.” In Christianity and the Limits of Materiality, edited by Minna Opas and Anna Haapalainen, 101–121. London: Bloomsbury.

Siker, Jeffrey S. 2017. Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt87v DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt87v

Smith, Warren Cole. 2020. “Claims by Wycliffe Associates in Fundraising Initiatives Raise Questions.” The Roys Report. 15 April. https://julieroys.com/claims-by-wycliffe-associates-in-fundraising-initiatives-raise-questions/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

Sneed, Kathryn. 2018. “Bible Verse Phone Cases for Encouragement.” SingingThrough the Rain. 23 March. https://singingthroughtherain.net/2018/03/bible-verse-phone-cases.html Accessed 17 April 2021.

Strand, Paul. 2016. “Digital Revolution Eradicating Bible Poverty Worldwide.” CBN News. 15 July. https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2016/july/digital-revolution-eradicating-bible-poverty-wordwide Accessed 29 November 2020.

United Bible Societies. 2020. “About: Vision and Mission of the Digital Bible Library.” The Digital Bible Library. https://thedigitalbiblelibrary.org/about/ Accessed 29 November 2020.

Wall Watchers. 2021. “Wycliffe Associates, Inc.” Ministry Watch. 1 April. https://briinstitute.com/mw/ministry.php?ein=952584324 Accessed 28 April 2021.

Watts, James W. 2017. Understanding the Pentateuch as A Scripture. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119415374 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119415374

———. 2019. How and Why Books Matter. Sheffield: Equinox.

Wycliffe Associates. 2020a. “For Those Without a Bible.” Wycliffe Associates.

https://wycliffeassociates.org/about/our-mission/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

———. 2020b. “Print On Demand Equipment is ‘Missing Link’ for Bible Translation

Teams Facing Intense Persecution.” Wycliffe Associates. 1 April.

https://wycliffeassociates.org/press-releases/print-on-demand-equipment-is-missing-link-for-bible-translation-teams-facing-intense-persecution/ Accessed 24 April 2021.

———. 2020c. “Scriptures for New Frontiers.” Wycliffe Associates. https://wycliffeassociates.org/projects/scriptures-for-new-frontiers/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

———. 2020d. “Tablets for National Translators (TNT).” Wycliffe Associates.

https://wycliffeassociates.org/projects/tablets-for-national-translators/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

———. 2020e. “Technology Advancement.” Wycliffe Associates. https://wycliffeassociates.org/our-impact/technology-advancement/ Accessed 5 December 2020.

YouVersion. 2018. “Conversation with Kathy Lee Gifford.” YouTube. 6 March. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ9QACY4nQQ Accessed 7 November 2020.

Published

2021-11-02

How to Cite

Parmenter, D. M. . (2021). The Bible as my Witness: Digital Bibles, Visual Anonymity, and Performative Iconicity. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 12(1), 45–56. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.20399