If you had asked me if I would have ever thought of publishing a “Bible,” I would have said you were crazy. I have a dozen Bibles on my shelf already—all sorts of colors, sizes and translations. I’m not thinking the world needs another Bible; what it needs is to read the one it has and obey it. Now, that would be amazing!
If I could be a part of helping that happen, “I’m in.” But publish one? Not interested. I’m a preacher, pastor, storyteller, movie-guy—a practical theologian more than some academic one. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love theology, digging into the Bible searching for hidden treasure, the mysteries that God is longing to reveal to those willing to play hide and seek with Him.
I have loved the Scriptures ever since I was a little guy. The Bible has been my trusted life-giving companion for decades. I remember hearing someone say: “those whose Bibles are falling apart, seldom have lives that do.”
As the proud owner of a well-worn, irreplaceable “sword” that has been lovingly preserved ‘lo these many years’ with the miracle combination of scotch tape and a duct tape binding, my hope is those words are true. But as treasured as the Bible should be, I have been greatly challenged by Jesus’ haunting rebuke to the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you might have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Why did David and Brad say “yes” to the Founders’ Bible Project? Listen in while they share about the history and importance of the Founders’ Bible.
The Bible, as marvelous as it is, is not meant to be an end in and of itself, but rather a stepping stone unto a relationship, a tuning fork so-to-speak enabling me to hear and discern God’s voice. If it doesn’t help transform me, teach me to love and bring me into deeper fellowship with God, I’m not sure it is being used for its intended purpose. Having spent many years as a pastor in professional ministry, been behind the proverbial curtain, and seen the inner-workings of the “business of religion,” I think I have developed a healthy distaste for pretense and empty ritual. God is longing to make Himself known, to reveal His love and draw us to Himself. As such, my longing is for something real, to give myself to what truly matters, and in whatever I find myself doing to help facilitate that relationship becoming real for others.
So when I gathered with some new business partners and we talked about possible publishing projects, publishing a Bible was not on my list—the thought never even crossed my mind. When they showed me the plethora of great books projects they had designed and what they were capable of, I was more than impressed. But when it came to the endless string of Bibles they had designed for other publishers, while I listened politely and smiled, inwardly I thought, “And you are telling me this why?…” Little did I know that God already had a plan in motion.
If you don’t already know this, God has a fondness for doing things differently. He often chooses the foolish and weak things of this world, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are. In that way His glory is revealed, and no one is confused who did it when something marvelous happens (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). That’s at least how we feel about The Founders’ Bible project. I do not know how many other more likely candidates He enlisted who may have declined. We were just the few crazy ones who said “yes”—having no real idea what we were agreeing to.
In early December 2011, I found myself with another friend visiting with David Barton and his staff at Wallbuilders. I wasn’t there to pursue a publishing project; we were discussing a social media business venture. Over the next few days, as David and his two grown children, Damaris and Tim, and their staff shared with us stories of the little-known, forgotten history of the founding of America, I was utterly fascinated. As I spent time in the document vault, which contains over 100,000 original source documents from the Founding era, I found myself being stirred. I was being freshly inspired by the noble stories, the passion of the Founders, their belief in God, and their incredible sacrifice in laying the foundations of this country. I also found myself a bit ticked. Why had I never heard any of this before? This is incredible!
As a product of the public school system, this was not the history I was taught; quite the opposite. They had edited out just about any meaningful reference to God. The stories we were told were sanitized and scrubbed of any real spirituality—just names, facts and dates with little to no “through line” of any substance, no over-arching plan or purpose. The Founding Fathers were just a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and deists, right? Apparently not! Everyone knows that the American Revolution was fought because of taxation without representation… You mean there was more to it than that? Yes, far more, and thrilling to learn.
As I listened to the stories of various Founding Fathers I had never even heard of, their deep spiritual passion, their love for God, their consistent commitment to and reliance upon the Scriptures, it was amazed. This was not in our textbooks, but here I was holding documents and artifacts that clearly evidenced a deep spiritual heritage of this country. Unashamedly, I am intelligent and very well educated, and while I may not be an expert, I am well read and no slouch when it comes to history. With a full contingent of required history in college, as well as a full Church history track in seminary, especially American Church History, you’d think I would have at least been exposed to some of this—but no! I knew none of it, had never heard it before. That’s just plain wrong! How do we not know this? Why is it not taught?
One story stood out to me,fascinated me, more than all the rest. David had shared snippets of it at lunch. Tim who had not been there shared it again that afternoon, as did one of the office staff when first taking us into the vault. Damaris then told it again the final day. And with each telling, as more pieces of the puzzle were set in place, it stirred my own passion and appreciation for the sacrifice that those who had gone before us were willing to endure. They told us to story of how the Bible first came to America, how instrumental it was in the lives of the Founders and our Forefathers who first stepped on these shores.
They spoke of the importance of Geneva Bible and how for the first time the people had a chance to read the Bible for themselves, in their own language, and how precious it was. They showed me one of the rare original copies with the Reformers’ actual notes in the margin, challenging the notion of the “Divine Right of Kings,” and rethinking a whole host of societal issues based upon the truth found in the Scriptures. I learned how King James I (purportedly an actual ancestor of mine) was so annoyed with the Reformers and their infernal notes that he decided to widen the columns and do away with them. He commissioned a version of his own—but it was too late!
The Word of God had gotten loose and the people were beginning to think for themselves. The dream of freedom had been awakened; the fire was lit and it would not be put out. Tyranny’s days were numbered. I learned how the revolutionary ideas that graced the pages our founding documents, before they were penned were first preached in the pulpits of New England—the fruit of people searching and studying the Scriptures for themselves as they sought to discern how we should then live.
They shared stories of the persecution and suffering the founders endured, the courage they displayed, their willingness to stand against tyranny and fight for freedom. I knew some of that history, and some of the main players. But I had no idea how central the Bible was to the unfolding drama—how it was forbidden by the English crown to be published in America, how copies had to be smuggled into the country, and how instrumental it was to all involved. Something of a renewed passion for the Word of God was being born inside me—and I was already a huge fan!
When I heard that one of the very first acts of Congress in 1782 was to actually commission a publishing of the Scriptures in America so that the people could have free access to it, I was floored! Really? The very government that in 1962-1963 removed prayer and Bible reading from school, at its founding is the one that was desperately seeking to get it into as many hands as it could? So much for our popular conceptions of the separation of Church and State!
As they let me see one of those original Bibles, I could imagine something of what young King Josiah must have felt as they dusted off the lost book of the Law (2 Kings 22), and he discovered the true spiritual heritage that years of neglect and national disobedience had forgotten.
We have become a nation that has a tale of two histories. One that has a deep, rich, spiritual heritage that speaks of a Godly purpose and destiny that was born in the heart of this nation as it was founded. And another that is progressively seeking to distance itself from that, trying to pretend it does not exist. Given a generation of dominance in public education where God seems to have been edited out of the equation, and we have become a nation with spiritual amnesia. We do not know, because we have not heard.
As I lay in my hotel room that night, I realized a fire had been ignited in my soul. Something had to be done! That’s when the whisper emerged and I was let in on a secret: “I want you to do The Founders’ Bible—tell the story, let the history be known.” I had no idea how to do a Bible, but God had paired me with the best possible designers who did, and He had just introduced me to one of His other servants who had the treasure trove of wisdom and the documents to back it up. Well all right then!
I had no idea that normal people would take over two years to endeavor to complete such a project. Fearless, probably because I was clueless, I simply said “yes!” The more I thought about it, the more my passion grew. I called the guys in Minnesota just to check on whether or not we could do this—they said “Sure!” I knew they could work faster and better than anyone else. When I posed it to David, in spite of his already fully booked schedule and telling a host of others “no,” something resonated inside and he equally knew this was the Lord. So it was game on!
I asked him to run free and use the wealth of what God had entrusted to him to map out what he would want to cover; and I as a hungry student made an insanely long list of all the questions I had and things I knew people would be interested in. We had toyed with the notion of something like 1776 pages, but overshot the runway by nearly 496 more.
True to Barton’s style, we have included loads of footnotes right there with the articles so you can chase down the sources for yourself. No, this is not a normal Bible! Perhaps more reasonable-thinking publishers would have chosen different parameters, but I have never been accused of being “balanced” and “reasonable.” Passionate? Yes, guilty as charged (please pray for my wife!).
After some 6 months of non-stop, night and day, tireless labor, we believe we have compiled what might be best described as a modern day Geneva Bible for this generation. Not only is it a marvelous study Bible in its own right, utilizing the Updated New American Standard Bible (NASB), which is recognized as the most accurate word for-word translation in the English language, but it contains some of the most inspiring history of the founding of America—tracing the roots and origin of the dream of freedom that begins not just in the days of persecution in England, but was born in the heart of God!
David’s passion was to challenge people to think “Biblically” and anchor articles that deal with many of our contemporary cultural issues to the relevant Bible passages that speak to them; and to reveal the Biblical foundation upon which so much of our government and laws are based. Knowing what a critical juncture we are in as a country, if not the nations of the world, there is one time-tested place that we can find the wisdom we need—that is God Himself and the incredible gift that the Word of God has been throughout every generation.
Each and every one of the Bible book introductions is meant to help tell the story of God’s purpose and longing for relationship—all He has ever wanted was to walk and talk in the cool of the day. Our prayer is that you will be challenged and inspired with fresh passion to pursue God, to be a faithful student of His Word, and that He would draw you into a deeper, more satisfying relationship with the Word of God Himself.
Isaiah 60:1-3 declares, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” The world’s difficulties are mounting such that it would seem that we are fast approaching these times. If ever there was a desperate need to lay hold of God, and to find wisdom for the days ahead, it is now.
America in many respects could be likened to the younger prodigal son—it has taken a glorious inheritance and has seemingly squandered it (Luke 15). Whether you are the older son who has gotten lost in the house, or the younger son who has wandered a far ways off, may we all discover the Amazing Father waiting who longs to see us return to Him.
Because I am storyteller and a movie-guy, let me leave you with one of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, another epic drama that just might have a fitting word of encouragement. When confronted with the impossible challenge before them, despairing of even life, an exhausted Frodo confesses, “I can’t do this Sam.”
Equally exhausted and worn out, Sam responds, “I know, it’s all wrong. By all rights we shouldn’t even be here…but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it is only a passing thing, a shadow, even darkness will pass, and a new day will come… And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stay with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why… But I think I do understand Mr. Frodo, folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, but they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo, exhausted and in tears, asks, “What are we holding onto Sam?” Sam picks Frodo up and pulls him to his feet, then looks him straight in the eyes: “That there is something good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!”
May the words of a couple of little hobbits on an impossible journey encourage and inspire you to not give up as if God were whispering them afresh into the midst of your impossible journey: “there is something good in this world, and it is worth fighting for!”
On behalf of Shiloh Road Publishers, may God richly bless and encounter you!
I can think of no finer resource to suggest to you than The Founders’ Bible. If you have already purchased one, may I strongly encourage you to dig in and discover the riches of wisdom and insight that is there to be enjoyed. If you don’t yet have a copy, GET ONE! We can ill afford to remain ignorant of the lessons of history.
The Founders’ Bible is available in four different, beautifully designed Print editions: the Hardcover edition, a LeatherSoft edition, a Genuine Leather edition, as well as a special Heirloom edition.
We are excited to announce it is also now available in a Digital Edition. If you have enjoyed the print edition, you will absolutely love the digital edition.