Yesterday we celebrated Bible Sunday – a good opportunity for us to reflect on the book that has the power to change lives.
In our church we have pew Bibles, our school has Bibles on the shelves and gives out Bibles to each child in Year 6, many of us own a Bible and not just that we have access to a Bible, we can read it in our mother tongue.
We can easily take it for granted and forget that this has not always been the case.
In mediaeval times only scholars were able to read the Bible as the OT was originally written in Hebrew, the NT in Greek and the commonly used translation was inn Latin – the language of educated people.
Even clergy often didn’t understand Latin (or in some cases weren’t even unable to read) and had to learn the Latin Mass off by heart – relying on the actions in liturgy to convey the content to the common people. The church at the times didn’t think it desirable for common people to be able to read the Bible for themselves. The careful selection of passages and Bible stories that were re-told (hence the importance of stain glass window depicting stories that people couldn’t find accessibly written down) combined with set explanation that weren’t open for discussion or alternative interpretation gave the church the power to control the beliefs of ordinary people.
This was one of the (many) issues Martin Luther wanted to address in his attempt to reform the Catholic Church. While he insisted that clergy must be educated and be able to read the Bible not just in Latin but in it the original Hebrew and Greek, he also wanted the common people to be able to read the Bible for themselves in their mother tongue.
In this country many fought for the same right – like Wycliffe and Tyndale – and many were burned at the stake for pursuing the vision of Bible literate people.
The privilege we now enjoy of being able to access the Bible freely in our own languages comes with the responsibility to grow in our knowledge – to learn more about God and spread the Good News of Christ. This is our calling as Christians.
Jesus sent out his disciples “to make more disciples by baptising and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mat 28.18-20). While baptising falls into the remit of clergy – the latter is a calling that we all share.
And if you are daunted by your calling be reminded of Joshua who feared the task ahead of him and to whom God replied: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9)
In my bookshelves you can find a wide variety of Bibles – from Hebrew to Greek, Latin, German (many different versions), to English (King James, New Revised Standard (the version we use as pew Bibles at St Edburg’s) and some others) – easily accessible – never taken for granted and used to study the Scriptures and grow in understanding and knowledge.
Thanks be to those whose vision, determination and sacrifice made this possible.
May God’s rich blessing be with you all.