Saturday, June 23, 2012

Penny for penny, beyond price

This short and simple testimony of Aunt Melanie restates a truth that Christians often take for granted about the Bible. We may venerate the scriptures with our lips, kissing them and praising them with our words, yet if our devotion to the Message stops there, we have not found their real value. Beloved evangelist John writes,  ‘Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life—this is our subject’ (1 John 1:1). Yes, we know he is talking about Jesus, who is the Word of God in human form, but what he tells also applies to the holy and divine Scriptures. The majority of Christians before the invention of the printing press never read the Bible themselves, and after it became possible to ‘take up and read’ still we find the majority of Christians never, or rarely, reading it. But the Book has value, as Aunt Melanie writes…

The Cheapest Thing I Own
by Aunt Melanie

Although Bibles can be expensive, there are nice Bibles that you can buy on sale for almost nothing. I have a New American Bible, bound in a supple vinyl, which I found on sale for $7.99. I also use a leather-bound King James Version which I found several years ago for $12.99. Penny for penny, I regard my Bibles as the cheapest things I own. You can hardly buy a paperback novel or a good hamburger for that much.

Thanks to the printing press and to literacy among the masses, the Bible provides a connection to God’s community: to the generations which lived during the days of the Old and New Testaments and to everyone since then who found solace in the teachings of Christ. All of these people—their stories and the message—belong to us, and we to them. We worship the same God and we are all members of the same household.

This participation of many different people, sometimes over a period of many years and in more than one place, in the production of a certain writing is a major characteristic of the Bible. With few exceptions, the authors of the Old and New Testament books did not think of themselves as professional writers. They were members of a community which felt itself to be especially chosen as the bearer of God’s promise. Their writing was an expression of the community in action; it was the result of the process of listening to God’s word in history and in the religious experience of the nation, of reflecting on that word, of telling the story, and of handing on the message to later generations of the community. Thus, the writings and the stories they tell are understood to be the property of the entire community, not just the author. It is no matter that the identity of the authors may be blurred; and there is no anxiety about preserving an individual writer’s words intact. The Bible comes from the midst of the community of faith in order to serve the community of faith. 
The New American Bible, “How the Bible Came About,” by Jerome Kodell 

It is the message of the Bible, and not the leather binding and gold embossing, that makes it an amazing bargain no matter how much we may have paid for a fancy Bible in a box. No price can be set on the value of a Bible. Money is strange in that way. Not every penny calculates according to what an item is worth in itself. A painting by Picasso is not worth five million dollars—not to me. If it is worth it to you, then it was money well spent. It has no comparison to the $7.99 which I spent on my vinyl-covered Bible, because the stories and the message of the Bible are outside any monetary, literary, or historical appraisal.

Perhaps that is the way it must be. No fair price can be set on a Bible. The price of a Bible is the crucifixion of Christ. We did not pay that price, Christ did. My Bible, therefore, is the most expensive thing I own.

No comments: