This Fall, the Good Book Goes Green: A Review of The Green Bible

The Green BibleLet me be clear. You don’t need a new eco-friendly Bible to be a green Christian. Keeping that old tattered Bible you got when you were baptized or confirmed is still greener than purchasing one made with recycled paper. If your childhood Bible has completely fallen apart, there are millions of barely opened Bibles that end up lining the shelves of your local used bookstore. Another option, in an era when literature is available on iPods and mobile devices, is to download the Bible. I’m much more likely these days to use free online search engines to find a passage of scripture than to thumb through pages.

As a minister who is concerned that Christianity has become much too comfortable with consumerism, which is incompatible with the way of Jesus, I don’t advocate purchasing all the religious stuff that’s out there for gifts. Sadly, Bibles too are given makeovers everyday and marketed like everything else. The message from the industry is the same as the message about your toaster. “It’s outdated. You need a new one.” I have been given all kinds of Bibles over the years, dozens of them, and I’ve given them all away except a few. The only time I’ve ever bought one was for a college course. So, I found it a little ironic when I was asked to review a company’s latest attempt to push the most published book in history.

That said, I will definitely be purchasing The Green Bible, published by HarperOne, coming this October ($29.95). Their eco-friendly production process is a good step for the industry. They use soy-based inks, recycled paper, and a 100% cloth/linen cover. I would like to see the rest of HarperCollinsPublishers use the same printing methods for all products, rather than just one. While I’m creating a wish list, I’d also like to see the rest of the industry follow the lead of Harper and Thomas Nelson, whose eco-friendly Bible came out last fall.

But a greener printing process alone isn’t enough to make me shell out $29.95 when the one I have is just fine. If I really am concerned about living responsibly in an interconnected universe, having something I already have shipped to me all the way from the Amazon still doesn’t make much sense.

Oh wait, I think these things come from wherever Amazon.com is, not the actual Amazon. But, it’s still shipped from who-knows-where. I know the review materials came from San Francisco, along with some Ghirardelli chocolates. Thanks, by the way!

What is it about this product that is tempting enough for me to pre-order it on Amazon for $19.77?

There are resources in here collected from some of the most prophetic and influential voices from all assorted religious flavors, both ancient and contemporary. It is filled with essays from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author and activist Brian McLaren, well-known preacher Barbara Brown Taylor, Pope John Paul II, Jewish environmentalist Ellen Bernstein, and Anglican Bishop of Durham and renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, to name a few. It includes a poem from celebrated poet and conservationist Wendell Berry and a canticle from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. (No joke. There really is an official patron saint of ecology.)

The Green Bible also includes:

  • information on how to read the Bible through a green lens,
  • a historical overview of Christian teachings on creation, from St. Augustine to C.S. Lewis,
  • a Green Bible Trail study guide, pointing out six green themes throughout the scriptures,
  • green text highlighting passages that speak to green issues,
  • a green subject index,
  • and even a resource guide with suggestions to help your congregation get more involved in the green movement and practical ways to make a difference in your daily life.

Real hard-copy Bibles are always going to make meaningful gifts for special occasions, even as people are buying less things in print. Maybe a hand-me-down is still the most significant and greenest Bible you can give someone. But The Green Bible too is worth buying. It is a great product packed full of voices, both ancient and contemporary, that will cultivate a sense of kinship with all things. This product is part of a larger effort to ignite the imaginations of people of faith in response to “the biggest problem facing the world” ( according to Matthew Sleeth in an essay included in The Green Bible). That’s more than enough good news to offset the purchase of yet another Bible for my collection.

  1. Robin Shreeves

    Thanks for the informative review. I had seen this Bible (or perhaps it was the other one you mentioned) advertised and my first thought was similar to yours – using the Bible you already have or buying one second hand is still a better option.

    But, I didn’t know that there would be green-type notes in it, and now I’m a bit intrigued. I’ve been very slowly working through the Bible and journaling what I see it saying about the environment and our responsibility to care for it, and perhaps this version of the Bible will have insight that hasn’t hit me.

  2. Bobby B.

    If you believe that “the biggest problem facing the world” is an environmental problem, then this probably is the version for you. If you believe that the biggest problem involves mankind’s fall from grace, its separation from the Creator, and its need for a Redeemer, then maybe you should look elsewhere. Not having seen the green version, I can only make assumptions. However, I would think that it might be difficult to see the Gospel for all the green.

    Cherry picking verses to incite the masses is a practice all too common in religion. Now via green colored text, we have a bible that seeks to enlist eco-warriors. It would be interesting to see if there is any commentary for those verses in which God may not have acted particularly green. How many fish died when Moses turned the river into blood? Did it hurt mother earth when he smote the rock? Did the burning bush do so without a carbon footprint? What effects did the rotting flesh from those massacred at the Red Sea crossing, Noah’s flood, Sodom, Gomorrah, Jericho, Golgotha, etc. have on the ecology? Was it a mistake for God to refer to the world as his footstool? Will Gaia cry out when the Messiah stands atop the Mount of Olives causing it to cleave to the east and to the west? Sure the Bible speaks of stewardship, but is God really “green” by today’s standard?

    Now, I am by no means a Bible scholar; merely a layman. However, I asked for and received a “Geneva Bible – 1560 Ed.” this past Christmas. It was a little difficult to read at first and I believe that older versions might be even more difficult. However, being a product of the Protestant Reformation, the message is clear. It is the first version that I actually enjoy reading, and I have had several (KJV, NKJV, NIV & Good News). If interested, here is a link to the publisher:


    You can buy it from various retailers at a better than list price. I would also highly recommend “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” for anyone interested in the sacrifices made by those law breakers who translated the Bible into English.

  3. Chad Crawford

    Hey Bobby!

    I believe that it’s precisely our human pride and selfishness emanating from what the Bible describes as our fall and separation from the Creator that has led to the ecological problems we face. A desire for holiness would reverse this-we wouldn’t take more than we need and would have a genuine appreciation for all that God called “good.”

    The passages you describe don’t at all measure up to the amount of destruction that we humans are doing on a global scale. “Did the burning bush leave a carbon footprint?” LOL

  4. Chad Crawford

    Haha. Nope. Not one species became extinct. The vegetation is eventually restored. God even repents and makes a covenant, not just with Noah, but with every living thing, saying that much destruction will never again be caused by the hand of God.

  5. Bobby B.

    The promise is not that God will never again cause that much destruction. The promise is that He will not use water to cause such destruction.

    Gen 9:11 – And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

    Studies of Biblical eschatology suggest future judgements (times of destruction) will come by way of God’s spoken word and fire. Personally, I sometimes wonder if the harlot (Babylon) referenced in Revelation equates to the spirit now referred to as Gaia (Mother Earth). The United Nations’ use of manmade global warming to create economic and strategic alliances among nations and the demise of the Christian religions in those nations are striking. Of course, the symbolism could point to a completely different harlot that has yet to show herself.

    BTW, I’d like to make a positive comment about the green bible. If the text is a true rendetion of God’s Word, then framing it in green may not be a bad thing. Many greens who would otherwise avoid reading Scripture may pick this version as a starting place, and one day be drawn to redemption. I hope.

  6. echo

    i understand that this was years ago, and my comment is totally irrelevant now. but, i just wanted to say this book literally saved me. i was shopping at my lil’ hippy store and saw this and thought ‘what the hell, i’ll get it. see what the bible is about’. honestly, it’s changed me. im glad they made this book. i’d be lost without christ.

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