A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why is there a Bible in every hotel room?

Dear Straight Dope:

Why is there a Bible in every hotel room?

Many would suspect the Gideon Society has something to do with it.

The Gideons (www.gideons.org), formed in 1899 in Janesville, Wisconsin, are the oldest Christian business and professional men's association in the United States with 130,000 members located in more than 170 countries.

In the early days, most of the Gideons were traveling salesmen who wanted to be effecitve Christian witnesses while on the road. They decided to place a Bible at the reception desk in each hotel they frequented so patrons could borrow it. The Bible also served as a silent witness in these hotels after the Gideons had checked out. Today, the Gideons place more than 45,000,000 bibles annually in prisons, hospitals, military bases and, of course, hotel rooms.

But if you want to know who started the phenomenon of placing Bibles in hotel rooms, the credit goes to the International Bible Society (www.gospelcom.net/ibs/).

Founded in 1809 in New York, the International Bible Society is one of the leading publishers of ethnic scriptures, publishing Bibles in more than 350 languages (the 1810 Bengali translation is still in use in India). The IBS provided Bibles to Civil War soldiers, and, according to communications coordinator Stephanie Nelson, started putting Bibles in hotels in 1823 -- more than 75 years before the Gideons started their ministry.

There is no jealousy or competitive fervor between the groups. Each expresses admiration for the other's work.

You've got to admire both. They just want everyone to curl up with a Good Book.

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