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Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 15 August 2011 09:47 AM America/New_York

Personality editions popular with serious Bible students

Bibles featuring well-known personalities are more than just about big names, as the subcategory is a strong segment for publishers and retailers. Publishers have produced editions featuring Bible-study contentFree-Press_Hope-for-Today-Bible from a who’s who of Christian leaders such as Charles Ryrie, C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley and Joel Osteen.  

Personality, specialty or name Bibles are “a significant category,” said Bob Sanford, vice president and associate publisher of Thomas Nelson’s Bible group. He estimated that approximately half of Nelson’s overall Bible sales are from the category.


Since the 1970s, Nelson has published at least 17 personality Bibles, including John MacArthur’s The MacArthur Study BibleThe Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, Max Lucado’s The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible, John Maxwell’s The Maxwell Leadership Bible, Jack Hayford’s New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Richard Lee’s The American Patriot’s Bible and T.D. Jakes’ Holy Bible, Woman Thou Art Loosed! Edition. With combined sales of Nelson’s name Bibles at almost 5 million copies, they are among the publisher’s “long-standing best-sellers,” Sanford said.

HarperOne_C.S.-Lewis-BibleIn August 2012, Nelson will release the Gaither Homecoming Bible by gospel music pioneers Bill and Gloria Gaither, who “inspire hope through scripture, story and song, and we hope to capture that spirit of inspiration in this Bible,” said Gary Davidson, the publisher’s senior vice president and Bible group publisher.

 Sanford said that Nelson looks for “ a significant voice in the Christian community” when it comes to creating personality Bibles. “Who is saying something that enhances Bible study for the Christian community?” he asked. “How do we bring together the strengths of the Bible teacher with our strengths as a publisher? … The Web and electronic media opportunities have widened the platform prominent Bible teachers bring to the publishing and marketing processes.”


The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible is “the main personality Bible” carried by The Bookstore at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, pastored by Stanley, according to Manager Janet McKinley. 

“We have sold over 5,000 in the store,” she told Christian Retailing. “I certainly think that when the senior pastor has a specialty Bible it has a strong influence in sales.”

McKinley added that the store at Lakewood Church in Houston had sold “a large quantity” of Joel Osteen’s Hope for Today Bible (Free Press) when she managed there. Since its publication in 2009, Hope for Today Bible by the Lakewood pastor has sold 155,000 copies.

Christian Book Distributors President and CEO Ray Hendrickson said that the online retailer carries all the major contemporary specialty Bibles and many of the classic personality Bibles, including The Matthew Henry Study Bible, the Thompson Chain-Reference Study BibleThe Scofield Study Bible and The Dake Annotated Reference Bible.

The variety “shows that the idea of personality Bibles is not new,” he said. “Regardless of whether a personality Bible has been around for decades or has just come out recently, our audience gravitates towards serious study, so the authors who are known for serious study have fared best. They can be strong in the study Bible category. Strength of notes matters.”

 Hendrickson observed that the subcategory has changed through the years. “If you look at the classic personality Bibles, strong teaching and study systems were what won the day,” he said. “Today, it seems if an author has a platform, a Bible soon follows. There can be value in weaving an author’s thoughts, teachings alongside the Bible text, but the caution is that the personality remain subject to the Scripture, not the other way around.”

In the spring of 2012, Zondervan will release Lessons From Life Bible: Personal Insights With Jimmy Carter, joining the company’s other previous name Bibles, including Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ Study Bible and the NIV Encouragement Bible by Joni Eareckson Tada and Dave and Jan Dravecky.Thomas-Nelson_Charles-F.-Stanley-Life-Principles-Bible

Zondervan Channel Marketing Director for Bibles Lynn Lyman told Christian Retailing that personality Bibles are hard to categorize. 

“Depending on the topic and the celebrity/personality, we’ve had some incredible successes,” she said, noting that The Case for Christ Study Bible has sold “very well.”

“Sometimes we pursue known Christian leaders and personalities that resonate with today’s consumer, and craft it around their message,” she added. “Other times we do research or hear from consumers on a popular or much-needed topic, and then we find the best voice to speak to that topic.”


Retailers can merchandise and promote name Bibles a number of ways, including placing them in a biography display or section.

“An advantage that celebrity and personality Bibles have is that it is sometimes easier to get publicity for them,” Lyman said. “If we receive confirmed media coverage, we can share with the retailers. Then it helps on the sell-in as well as the sell-through.”

Other specialty Bibles coming out later this year include the A.W. Tozer Bible (Hendrickson Publishers) and the Common Ground Bible (Atria), which features writings from T.D. Jakes. Released in 2006, The Everyday Life Bible by Joyce Meyer (FaithWords) has sold more than 500,000 copies.

Last year, HarperOne released The C.S. Lewis Bible, which combines the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) text with readings from a selection of Lewis’ works, including Mere ChristianityThe Screwtape Letters and The Problem of Pain.

Zondervan_lessons-from-life“We think that the main appeal is going to be for Lewis fans who are people of faith,” said Senior Vice President and Publisher Mark Tauber. “We don’t see people buying this as their first or only Bible, but as an additional resource for Lewis fans who want something else to help them in their Bible reading.”

Since its release in November 2010, the Lewis Bible has sold “very well”—32,500 copies at press time, HarperOne Senior Vice President and Editorial Director Mickey Maudlin told Christian Retailing. HarperOne’s lone other personality Bible is the Life With God Bible, previously published as The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible and featuring the writings of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard and Eugene Peterson.

“The whole reason for doing a personality Bible is because the author has either a network or a market for his or her products,” Maudlin said. “HarperOne does not see celebrity or personality Bibles as a category we are trying to expand in. Instead, we see what Bibles are needed, which have a clear and strong mission and then see what is the best strategy for reaching the market with them.”

Elsewhere, various versions of The Ryrie Study Bible have sold more than 2.6 million copies since it was first published by Moody Publishers in 1978, according to Marketing Manager Keith Wiederwax. The Ryrie Bible from Charles C. Ryrie comes in the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version and English Standard Version translations, and is available in various formats.  

The Ryrie NASB Study Bible is currently the leading seller among the translations that we sell,” Wiederwax told Christian Retailing. “In the last year, we have sold over 14,000 copies. The ESV version has sold over 10,000 copies since it was released in February.”