From the Ten Commandments inscribed on two stone tablets, to the scriptures written on papyrus, to the Gutenberg Bibles printed in 1454, and to the Bible software available now on digital tablets and smartphones, the Word of God has spread wider with every technological innovation. According to Guinness World Records, the Bible is the world’s No. 1 best-seller of all time, with more than 5 billion copies having been sold or distributed so far. The whole Bible had been translated into 350 languages and at least a part of it in over 2,000 languages.
However, the printed Bible now faces a stiff and aggressive competition from a new source, and that is the digital Bible. In 1985, the King James Version became the first digital Bible to be readable on the internet. Since then Bible web sites and apps have been proliferating.
Jesus commanded us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and the internet provides the best means so far of doing that. The biblegateway.com site alone has more than 200 searchable online versions in over 70 languages! Jesus has also told us to “search the scriptures” and study them diligently. (John 5:39) This task has become most easy with digital software like johnhurt.com or blueletterbible.org.
In 2008, I uploaded the Greek-Marathi translation of the New Testament by Ratnakar Hari Kelkar on my own web site marathibible.wordpress.com. This site has since recorded over half a million hits! It is popular not only in India but with Marathi-speaking people around the world, particularly where it is difficult to acquire a printed Nava Karar or even illegal to own one!
The digital Word has some compelling advantages. If it is on your smartphone, you have it with you all the time. If you feel like sharing it, it is so easy. If you are looking for a word or a phrase, just do a search and you will find it instantly. If you have difficulty reading it, just pinch and zoom! And if that will not do, listen to an audio version!
So what is the future of the printed Word? For how long will The Gideons International continue to place it in hotels or distribute it in hospitals and schools? Will commercial publishing houses acquire our Bible Societies? It is difficult to predict at this time. But for sure, God will always find an appropriate medium to speak to us. As he has said, “The word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)