Today is Bible Sunday so before I ponder, let us first get a little factual. Did you know…..?
Over 100 million bibles are sold each year.
The full bible has been translated into 532 languages.
It has been partially translated into 2883 languages.
The King James Bible contains:
The shortest verse in the bible is John 11: 35, ‘Jesus wept’.
The longest verse is Esther 8:9
The shortest book in the bible is Psalm 117 with just 2 verses.
The longest word in the bible is a name: Mahershalalhashbaz.
China is the largest producer of bibles.
The bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world.
The bible is the best-selling book in history with sales of over 5 billion copies.
The world’s smallest bible can fit on the tip of a pen.
Scientists etched the 1.2 million letters of the OT onto a tiny silicone disk which they call the Nano Bible.
The world’s largest Bible weighs 1,094 lbs,
it was built in 1930 it is 43.5 inches tall and has an open width of 98 inches.
Think about your first memories of the Bible. Have you known the Scriptures from childhood, or have they been a more recent discovery? Who read the Bible to you or introduced you to it? What story from the bible easily jumps into your mind now? What story are you particularly drawn to? Maybe it is the Christmas or Easter story, maybe something more obscure, more personal or more influential to you.
We often discover the Bible as part of a community, we do so in our churches, in All Saints, St Michael’s and St Margaret’s, in other churches, in our cathedrals, in study groups, at home and on the way to work perhaps on our phones. However and wherever we read our bibles, interpretation is more than a matter of personal whim. We hear, ponder and reflect on its wisdom together but we all are coming from a different place, God will be talking to us through the passages with a different and individual intention for each and every one of us.
66 books, many different authors and read by many different audiences. Some books are on law, others on history, poetry and wisdom, books from the prophets, books written by those who lived before Jesus, others who perhaps knew him and others who came after.
Sometimes, making sense of the Bible is no easy matter – it is the journey of a lifetime. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of disagreements over scriptural interpretation. Different translations might enlighten our interpretation of the words within. You can have 10 people preach on a particular passage and yet they may well all interpret the meaning in a different way. Truth is often more elusive than we would like.
There is a two-way process of questioning when we read the bible: we should question the Scriptures, and they in turn question us, sometimes turning our thinking on its head. What does it mean? Why does it say that? I don’t understand…. let’s fish around and dig deeper. There is honesty in doubt and it is good to question the scriptures and our faith. When we do, we should approach Jesus with those questions and doubts. What would he do? Perhaps there are answers in our bibles as much as questions in our heads.
Many years ago, the stories in the bible would have been told to children and their children’s children, through word of mouth. In 1611 when the King James Bible was first published, a mere few would have read it for themselves with the majority merely having it read to them. Eventually with the invention of the printing press, more and more people could get their hands on extracts from the bible, leading eventually to families owning their own whole bibles. The adventures of those delving into the pages long ago would have been very different to folks of today and the language would also have been very different. Time has passed by us and the generations who have gone before.
Our Gospel reading today was from Matthew 24. Verse 35 in the New International Version reads: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’ The same verse in The Message Bible reads: ‘Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.’
Now although The Message Bible is not everyone’s cup of tea I quite like the way it translates sometimes. ‘…my words won’t wear out’. To my mind to wear something out, you have to use it a lot.
The Bible has sustained Christians through the ages in difficult times, through wars, natural disasters and personal tragedy and its words have given them the courage to act with love, generosity and wisdom. Now we are ourselves in the midst of a pandemic with some of us also experiencing more personal difficulties but God is with us and in us. We must recognise that these are not going to be the last crises we will face as people and also as churches and communities. Through the centuries people have faced crisis after crisis.
There is a tendency to want to jump to the future, for us to
forget the past and the present and jump into speaking of ‘in 6 months’ time’,
‘next year’ or ‘next Christmas’. The bible teaches us to live in the present
because Jesus did just that, in the face of adversity, challenge and tragedy we
can read in the scriptures that he lived fully in the present and I pray that we
can take strength from that.