Publishers dream about Bibles because they are the cornerstone of publishing profits. Putting out a new Bible translation can assure a publisher's profitablity for generations, but short of a new translation, study Bibles do almost as well.
In a recent interview, Christianity Today's Global Publishing Director, Cliff Johnson, spoke of the profitability of Christianity Today's study Bibles:
Both the NIV Student Bible and the Quest Study Bible have been some of the most visible Christianity Today Bible products. Both were done with Zondervan and have produced ongoing revenue streams for quite some time now.
Tim Keller has been hitting doubles and triples with his books the past few years. Now he's going for the cycle with Christianity Today's recent announcement of the Faith and Work Bible to be marketed under the Keller/Redeemer trademark. Christianity Today CEO Harold Smith explains the Keller study Bible... is:
A new study Bible under development focusing on the interrelationship of faith and work. It will be designed to help Christ followers see their vocations as holy callings to both advance Christ's Kingdom and help flourish their cities and communities.
CT's Cliff Johnson projects a late-2015 release of the Keller/CT study Bible and gives this explanation of study Bibles' benefits:
...when very valuable and needed content is placed within the context of a study Bible, it anchors that information directly to Scripture. The reader can stay grounded in the Word while the extra-biblical content moves from there to a deeper level of spiritual understanding and maturity.
As we've pointed out repeatedly concerning mega-ministries like Christianity Today and Tim Keller/Redeemer, keep your eye on the money. Particularly if the man announcing the product explains the value of study Bibles as "some of the most visible Christianity Today Bible products" that have "produced ongoing revenue streams for quite some time."
By releasing his own study Bible product in the text of the brand new gender-neutered New International Version 2011 intended to replace the English-standard New International Version for generations to come, John MacArthur assured the sales of his product would continue for decades. Formerly he had vociferously opposed these gender-neutered Bible products, but refusing to use the NIV-2011 would have jeopardized his legacy.
It will be interesting to see whether Keller joins MacArthur in issuing his product in a gender-neutered Bible translation.
A couple comments prompted by the above statements made by CT's executives:
First, it's a hoot to read a Midwestern suburbanite talking up his product as an effort to "flourish cities and communities."
Second, it's depressing to read CT's Johnson forthright explanation of the purpose of study Bibles. Clearly he hears no dissonance when he commends study Bibles for placing man's words on the same page as God's words, "anchoring" man's words "directly to Scripture" assuring that the "extra-biblical content moves from there to a deeper level of spiritual understanding and maturity."
What Johnson sees as an asset is a liability. In other words, it's bad. Christians should never be led to confuse the words of man with the words and Word of God, yet this is precisely what Johnson explains as the value of study Bibles.
It's bad enough when the study notes are written by orthodox men like John MacAruthur. Imagine how heterodox the flourishes and embellishments the Keller study Bible will "anchor...directly to Scripture" in the minds and hearts of their consumers.
Gender-neutered Bibles combined with gender-neutered study notes: this is the future of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches in America.