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Family Bibles

Family Bibles - A Treasured Tradition
For at least a century, from the late 1880’s until the 1980’s, the time-honored American tradition of having a large “Family Bible” on prominent display in most Christian households was part of our culture as Americans and our heritage as Christians. That big “Family Bible” stood as a silent witness to all that home’s visitors, demonstrating without speaking a word that this home was a Christian Home. Often family records of births, deaths, and marriages were penned into the blank pages at the front or back.

Decline of The Family Bible

Then, in the 1980’s… the economically booming “Reagan Years”, the “Me Decade”… something happened.  That rich tradition of proudly displaying a very large Bible in the Christian Home just fell out of favor.  Sure, we still had the hand-sized Bible that we take to church and back home, which we kept on the nightstand, or on a shelf.  But the unapologetically huge display Bible… the beloved Family Bible… the one that was the centerpiece of the living room or den… disappeared from the American Home. Why did Family Bibles disappear?

Do You Remember Family Bibles?

Do you remember it? It was a very large format Bible with big print and beautiful typeface. The family gathered around to read it, if not daily, then at least on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas. Family Bibles held a place of honor in the Christian Home, and they were displayed with pride. All who entered the home saw this family heirloom, this treasured Family Bible, and knew instantly that this was a home with Christian values.

Do you have such a Family Bible displayed visibly in your home, signifying the Christ-centered focus of your home, and functioning as a silent witness that “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”? Or do you just have the conveniently hand-sized Bible that you take the church and rest on the shelf through the week?

Bringing Back The Family Bible

We believe that we should recapture that tradition, but it needs to be a special Bible that holds such a place of honor. It needs to be a statement piece: huge in format, elegant in typeface, and with a sense of history, heritage, and birthright about it… not just some mass-produced modern-looking printing.

Choosing The Best Family Bible

For the person seeking an affordable large format Family Bible in the King James Version, we suggest the Oxford KJV Pulpit Bible originally printed in 1769, and often referred to as “The Perfected King James Bible”. Few realize it, but the First Edition King James Bible of 1611 has not been in print since the early 1600’s. That original KJV of 1611 contained several typographical errors, and spellings that are extremely antiquated by modern standards. Its punctuation likewise does not follow modern use. The 1611 KJV Bible was revised in 1615, and again in 1629, and again in 1638, and again in 1762, and again in 1769. The King James Bible you have known all your life is actually the 1769 Oxford Standardized Version… even though it may not actually say that anywhere in your Bible.

Family Bibles as Family Heirlooms

For the person seeking an investment-grade original ancient Bible as a display piece for their home, rather than one of the lower-priced facsimile reproductions, the inventory of The Bible Museum provides many options from which to choose, all of which can be seen by searching the current online inventory of ancient Bibles.

History’s First Family Bible

The first “Family Bible” in the English language actually dates back to half a century before the 1611 King James Bible. It was the 1560 Geneva Bible While the Geneva Bible was not the very first English language Bible ever printed (that would be the 1535 Coverdale Bible), the 1560 Geneva Bible was nevertheless the first English Bible to be produced specifically for the primary purpose of personal home use. English Bibles before the Geneva Bible were either illegal productions made covertly by brave reformers, or they were officially sanctioned Anglican Church productions intended for public use on the church pulpit.

The Geneva Bible was produced by English Protestant refugees, fleeing the rule of Catholic Queen “Bloody Mary”, and living in Geneva (Switzerland). They produced a special English language Bible translation which was the first to use numbered verses, and the first to use plain Roman typeface, and the first to add commentary notes to the scriptures. It was intended to be a “Home Schooler’s Bible”, making it the quintessential Family Bible that was the progenitor of all Family Bibles in the English language which came after it.

Illustrated Family Bibles

One feature that many people seek in their Family Bibles is illustrations. The greatest of all illustrated Bibles of antiquity is undoubtedly the spectacularly beautiful 1568 Bishops Bible. However, the Bishops Bible is not really a Family Bible. It was more of an official church Bible.

A better example of an illustrated Family Bible of centuries gone by would be the 1846 Illuminated Bible. Featuring more than 1,600 woodcut illustrations, it was the most elaborately illustrated Bible ever printed up until that time. Like nearly all the Family Bibles of its day, the Illuminated Bible was a King James Version. The illustrations helped to keep the interest of children who were learning to read the Bible, and adults also appreciated the finely detailed images which complimented the scriptural readings on each page.

The Family Bible As An Archive

Another function of Family Bibles for centuries has been as a place to document family records of birth, marriage, and death. These records were typically written on the inside blank leaves in the front or back of Family Bibles. In fact, unto this day, when personal identification records are lost or stolen, bringing family genealogical records written inside a Family Bible to the courthouse is often acceptable as proof to reissue birth certificates and similar records. Those researching their genealogy find these records kept in Family Bibles to be of paramount importance in confirming their family lineage.

The Family Bible As a Gathering Point

For many families, the Family Bible is an iconic heirloom which serves as a focal point for holiday gatherings. Reading the scriptural passages about the birth of Christ at Christmas, or the resurrection of Christ at Easter, can be meaningful and memorable traditions to maintain. Some families take this even further, and practice daily devotional readings together, as they gather around their Family Bibles.