Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Reading’

The Christian History of a Thing Called a “Book”

December 5, 2015
'Book of Books' Exhibition Opens In Jerusalem

An original handwritten Facsimilia of Khabouris Codex complete New Testament in Syriac from the 11th century (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

I take delight in books. I even married a librarian. If we ever move I think the foundation of our house will rise when we box up the books. This format, where leafs (or pages) are bound on one side, was propagated by early Christians. Prior to that scrolls were the common choice for documents. Sacred texts like the Old Testament were a collection of scrolls kept in urns. The Jewish community continued using scrolls. And even to this day they are used in the synagogue liturgical readings. But the codex (the early concept of what we call books) was an innovation used extensively by the early church and became so popular that the use of scrolls in the secular world followed suit.

muse_reading_louvre_ca2220_cropped1One question we should have with the above information is, “Why?” I mean the Romans used scrolls. So did the Greeks, the Arabs, and the Jews. All religious writings in Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East used scrolls excluding the Early Church. This made us very unique, “people of the book.” One prominent reason was the study of the Old Testament.

The Advent Season reminds us that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. The sermons of Peter and Paul in Acts all cite the Hebrew Bible concerning the Messiah. The Gospel was foretold throughout the Old Testament. These scriptures are the foundation of the New Testament and its theology. Just think, 1,071 verses of Matthew are quotes and passing references to the Old Testament. 1 Peter, Jude, and Hebrews individually are about 69% from the Hebrew Bible. Roughly 2,600 of the 8,000 verses of the NT are from the OT with 343 direct quotes of passages and 2,309 paraphrases.

In order to facilitate the reading and understanding of the Gospels and Letters of the New Testament it was helpful to place the pages in a stack so one could flip back and forth to the Old Testament references in the same binding. Often the allusion or quote was meant to express a larger context than just the verse mentioned. IMG_1992.JPGA scroll was cumbersome to unravel in order to find a passage and had no easy way to save your place as you rolled over the original passage. Thus, a book was created so Jews (who knew their Scriptures could then verify the Gospel), and Gentiles (who were not so familiar) could keep their finger in the New and look up the source in the Old.

Every time I look at a book I think of the ingenuity of the Early Church creating an easier way to get the most from one’s devotionals. 004580_w185I’m also reminded that our faith is a reasoned one based on thousands of years of prophetic literature. The Old is important in amplifying the New. Paul used a “Soul-Winner’s Old Testament” to evangelize; could we? Let us embrace the Christian history behind “the book.” And let us use it as intended by Paul who exhorts us to read, “The full councel of God.”

Illuminated or Informational Word?

February 16, 2014

Today my 6 year old daughter and I spent some time drawing. For inspiration I pulled out a book on illuminated manuscripts. We looked through pictures of Celtic knot borders, crazy twisted animals, and robed angels. It occurred to me as I flipped through the carpet pages and the various designs embedded and surrounding the text that there is something missing in modern Bibles.

Book of Kells

Book of Kells

There is a lost design element in our modern view of the Scriptures. Whereas the interpretations of the Scripture in previous hand lettered medieval manuscripts were done through color and image, a flare for mystery and highlighting the other worldliness of the Bible, our modern Bibles fill the margins with simply more words. In our thirst for knowledge we are more concerned with useful additional information and only find beauty in typesetting and page layout.

[Even the Genealogy of Christ was worth adding a full page flourish]
— Book of Kells —

Bibles are marketed by the number of notations and study helps or by the scholars behind said study guides. We name the Bibles after the name of the major note-maker (Scofield, Ryrie, Jeremiah, Dake, etc) or the theological mindset behind the features (Orthodox, Wesleyan, Reformation, Charismatic, etc.). We might even market it to a specific sect of believers (Singles, Women, African Americans, Recovering Addicts, etc.).

I love the old manuscripts because monks poured over these words with a different mindset. Their time to hand write each page, to use their talent to accentuate the text anonymously is evident. The biblical words were enough; their joy was to merely highlight it. Their pictures are not historically accurate and sometimes leave more questions than answers. They enveloped the text in mystery and mysterious contorted creatures keeping watch over the God-spell. They adored the word and simply adorned it.

One day I would like to work on a modern illuminated manuscript. I must begin first with the desire to learn to love the text just for what it is. We scholarly types have lowered adornment for a more educational, useful approach to crowding the text with more insight rather than highlight. I think the church today could use a little influx of more text and less opinion; of more embracing mystery and passively receiving the beauty therein. May we all learn in our busy and need-to-know lifestyle to stop and savor the story of our salvation. That is my desire, to see the vivid words of life anew, illuminated, adorned in beauty just as it is.

Harming Ourselves (Jer. 7:6)

October 7, 2010

Dear Lord, Your word today says that by following my own desires, by worshipping the idols in my life I am actually harming myself! Your word says to Love God, Love others as you Love Yourself. Oh Lord, the right worship of You is found in not desecrating the image (idol) of God – humans, and I am a human too! By not taking care of myself, I kill and deface the very image of God. Give me strength to see my idols that I worship and in so doing harm myself. And my following lies (idols) to my own gain is just as bad as taking advantage of others to get ahead, for we all are your creatures, your image.

It seems so easy to pick on “foreigners” – who is the foreigner to me? May I not join in the abuse of foreigners of the faith (non-Christians), may I be persuaded to punish those who exploit the true foreigners who are illegal in this country rather than vilify the aliens. Melt my heart for their plight and give me power to do justice upon their behalf in a land where they are exploited, used, abused and cheapened just so others can make another dollar off their backs. the problem is there are jobs for the illegals in the USA – ones where they are abused, but have a better chance than in their own home countries. May You help me shut down the rackets that exploit the alien and therefore in so doing help the alien to enter the country with dignity and honor. My own welfare is connected to how I treat the aliens amongst us. May I do unto them as I would want to be done unto me. Amen.

Obey the First Time (Jer 6:2,9)

October 7, 2010

Dear Lord, as I teach my daughter to learn to “obey the first time” help me to obey the first time as well. Though You see us like Jerusalem, “my beautiful and delicate daughter” (Jer 6:2) You will still bring your destruction upon us if we continue to disobey. I repent and ask that you save me now, lest I cry out and you say, “No, its too late.” And may I not hide my righteousness in a land filled with wickedness, for Your word today is that, “even the few who remain will be picked over again.”

Blessing You, Blessing the World (Jeremiah 4:2)

October 5, 2010

Oh Lord, You call me to throw away the things I put first before You. Boy, that’s hard. Sometimes I think maybe I can just do the things I placed before you a little less, but you say, for me, I should throw it out. Ditch the idol, not, spend less time with the idol. Help me to let go fully and give You all of me.

Your word today through Jeremiah is that blessing You is found by being a blessing in the world. If I turn from my idols, swear allegiance to Jesus and live these three things out: truth, justice and righteousness, that not only would I be blessing and worshipping you, but I would be evangelizing. “As surely as the Lord lives, you could do… truth, justice, and righteousness. Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world and all people would come and praise My name.” (Jeremiah 4:2) If I am truthful, work for justice and live in all ways righteous then I am an evangelist. It isn’t rocket science, it’s righteousness. Oh, Lord, but I think doing truth, justice and righteous can be harmful and difficult for me! Help me to take the blows like a running-back and push forward to honor You and make Your name known by my actions in truth, justice and righteousness. Amen.

Talking Rightly, Walking Evilly (Jeremiah 3:5)

October 5, 2010

“So you talk, but you keep on doing all the evil you can.” (Jeremiah 3:5b). Dear Lord, it seems as if evil is forgetting You. Sometimes it seems that I define evil as vile and heinously¬†wicked acts and consider myself free from such maliciousness. And yet, through Jeremiah, You tell me that when I put other things in front of You, I am acting evilly. Forgive me when I talk like a Christian but act like the heathen.

In the beginning of verse 5 it says, “Surely you won’t be angry forever! Surely you can forget about it!” Oh, but when I’m hurt by someone else I can bear a grudge and have trouble letting it go. So here I am, just thinking that slapping You in the face will be so easily forgiven for You are God – You are Love and Forgiveness. Help me to see how badly I hurt You and how expensive the gift of Love and Forgiveness is that I may not be rash to assume you forgive and I continue to run roughshod over Your grace. Thank you Lord for this word, may I learn what my wickedness is (my unfaithfulness) and not make light of your forgiveness. And Christ Jesus, help me to keep my walk in line with my talk. Amen.

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