The Gospel According to Lewis?

C. S. Lewis is big business these days, but is the new “Lewis Bible” taking things a bit too far?

The Lewis Bible, available in cloth (18,000 copies sold since its November debut) or leather (6,000), shares a recycling genre with “A Year with C. S. Lewis,” a collection of 365 Lewis readings, which since 2003 has sold 200,000 copies.

The new Bible splices in quotations from Lewis’s books and unpublished papers. For example, in Genesis, next to the story of Noah’s drunkenness, appears an excerpt from a 1955 letter to one Mrs. Johnson. “One can understand,” it reads in part, “the bitterness of some ‘temperance’ fanatics if one has ever lived with a drunkard.” But, Lewis suggests, teetotalers are wrong if they write alcohol out of the Bible.

To the Book of Matthew, where Jesus denounces the outwardly but not truly religious, there is added a quotation from “Mere Christianity”: “How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious?” They are “worshiping an imaginary God.”

 

Lewis has been the inspiration for many a conversion through the years… but is this the kind of thing likely to draw people to Scripture who might not have been otherwise inclined, or are both the Bible and Lewis’s works better served by standing on their own?

One can understand Mr. Maudlin’s worries about marketing Lewis, who habitually overshadows books he loved, like the Bible. . . .

“He would be uncomfortable if it were sold as a personality cult, or him as mentor or guru,” Mr. Maudlin said of Lewis, whose name looms larger than the word “Bible” on the book’s cover. “So we had to make it dignified.”

One thing is for sure — financially, the timing couldn’t be better:

“I would say in the last 10 years, C. S. Lewis has sold more books than any other 10-year span since he started publishing,” Mr. Maudlin said. “He’s not only not declining, he is in his sweet spot.”

[Hat tip: Joe]

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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