This month’s Ask Bethany House question is a bit more on the trivia spectrum, and something a number of readers have probably wondered: “What inspired the name Bethany House?”
This question takes us back to the early days of Bethany House. In 1956, when BHP began, it was part of a larger missions organization called Bethany Fellowship, an organization dedicated to training and supporting missionaries. Printing books became one of the ways they funded international missions, along with donations and various other business endeavors.
BHP started out with an exclusive focus on nonfiction until publishing Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly in 1979. It is often considered the first inspirational novel. Ever since then, we’ve had a proud history of publishing books from some of the best Christian fiction authors out there. (Scan the bottom corner of the spines on your bookshelf, and I’m guessing you’ll see a few of the BHP quill logos there!)
But none of that explains why the the missions organization decided to use “Bethany” in the first place. According to Bethany International’s website, “The name ‘Bethany’ was chosen because it was a place Jesus would retreat with his disciples for rest, prayer and reflection.” (So if your guess was that it was named after the city Bethany in the Bible, most famous for being the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, you were right.)
In 2003, Bethany Fellowship sold Bethany House Publishers, and we became a part of the Baker Publishing Company family. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to change our name. So even though it can get confusing to people living nearby (Bethany International, Bethany Church, and Bethany Global University, a college training young people for ministry, are all our neighbors, even though we are no longer officially connected to them), we still proudly have the name Bethany House.
Fun side-note on names: Remember the first Bethany House fiction book, Love Comes Softly? The editor who acquired that novel and hundreds of others through the years was Carol Johnson. She and her husband Gary led Bethany House’s editorial team for many years. Carol was instrumental in starting up the Christy Awards to recognize Christian fiction authors, and the American Christian Fiction Writers honored her recently by changing their fiction award to the Carol Awards.
So here’s my question for you: Bethany House was named after the place Jesus went for rest and reflection. What’s your place for rest and reflection? (It can be a room in your house, a favorite local restaurant, a vacation destination…anything.)