Reading the Bible aloud, start to finish, takes about 77 hours. Writing by hand the entire holy book? Try six months.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the New International Version of the Bible, the publishing house Zondervan is inviting people across the country to copy a verse in their own hand.
“What better way than to let everyone participate?” said Moe Girkins, chief executive of Zondervan, the North American publisher of the NIV Bible, as it’s commonly known. “Anywhere people love the Bible, we want to go.”
The six-month Bible Across America tour will visit 90 cities and will include contributions from all 50 states.
Today, the tour stops at Rolling Hills Covenant Church in Rolling Hills Estates before heading up the California coast and then winding through the Southwest.
When the tour ends next month in Dallas, more than 31,000 people will have written a verse.
With about 14,000 verses transcribed, the tour visited Saddleback Church in Lake Forest last week, offering parishioners a chance to write out verses from Mark, John and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
After attending a Sunday morning service with her husband, Larry, and their 3-year-old son, John, Heidi Fritz immediately chose to write a verse from John. The book appealed to her, she said, because it includes many passages of Jesus speaking in the first person and offers “lots of practical advice.”
Chronological order left Heidi Fritz with John 8:3: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group.”
It wasn’t exactly the kind of passage she’d hoped for, but she said she was still glad to participate.
“It’s an opportunity to re-create history,” she said, comparing the project to early Bibles that were copied by hand.
Still, the Fritzes said they have no intention of handwriting all 31,173 verses of the Bible. (“One verse is enough,” they said.)
Inevitably, with limited leeway in choosing a verse, some participants are dealt less memorable or unsavory passages.
So far, such verses have not deterred participants, said Tara Powers, a spokeswoman for the tour.
“People who love the Bible love the whole story,” she said. “The tough stories need to be put in context.”
Angela Fish, whose husband and two daughters joined her in each writing a verse, agreed.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to be part of God’s word,” she said. “Isn’t every word of the Bible important?”
For Fish, transcribing a verse reinforced messages of the Bible. “Whenever you write something down, you take your time, kind of ingest it,” she said.
Lisa Duncan, 46, of Tustin, said writing 2 Chronicles 10:9 inspired her to revisit the Bible. “I want to go home and read this story and know the whole story of it,” she said.
For others, like Fish’s 8-year-old daughter, Emma Sandeman, it was just “cool to write something in the book.”
Participants write each verse twice, producing two originals of the book. When complete, one copy will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution, the other to the International Bible Society, which holds the copyright to the NIV Bible.
Zondervan will scan and format the handwritten pages for a textbook-sized Bible, to be published as “America’s NIV.”
Many contributors said they looked forward to reading the completed handwritten Bible.
“It really touches me, being able to read it in other people’s hand,” Larry Fritz said.
That’s assuming, of course, that everyone’s handwriting is legible.
Ron Mitori, 62, said he initially thought his penmanship would be too difficult for others to read. But wanting to contribute, he decided to write a passage in print instead of his usual cursive.
“It makes me feel like I’m part of something that’s bigger than me,” he said after carefully inking each letter in John 7:46.
To ensure the accuracy and legibility of each passage, tour volunteers provide the text of each verse on a small piece of paper and stand ready with white correction tape. A clear, illuminated box with black ruled lines sits underneath the 11-by-17-inch pages as participants write.
After transcribing a passage, participants each receive a card listing the verse they wrote. When the Bible is published, an index will include every writer’s name and corresponding verse.
For Woody Square, the opportunity to pen a verse at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego last week was an unexpected delight.
“It’s humbling to know that I have the opportunity to contribute one verse that might be read by millions of people,” said Square, the children, youth and family minister at San Leandro Church of Christ, near Oakland.
Especially gratifying, he said, was that his two teenage children would get to see his handiwork.
“They’ll be able to tell their kids that: ‘I know someone who wrote that verse, a person who played a role in shaping my own life.’ ”
Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed from San Diego.
Schedule information for the Bible Across America tour can be found at www.bibleacrossamerica.com.