Thought of the week

Bible Sunday

This Sunday is celebrated as Bible Sunday, an occasion to remind us of the part the Bible plays in our faith, in our lives and in our worship. The Bible is full of marvellous language, stories and ideas which help us draw nearer to God and hear of his purposes for us and for his world. So the presence of the Bible in our lives is really something for us to celebrate.

The first bible I remember reading was my granny’s Bible. Granny’s bible was a bit special.

We realised that it was very important to her because it was always beside her bed and she spent a lot of time reading it. But it was very special to us too. It was bound in shiny black leather and the edges of the pages shone gold. And all down the side where the book opened were little indents, with the name of the books of the bible visible, so that you could open it at the book you wanted. And then inside, alongside the text, were little printed details cross-referencing each verse to other verses in the Bible – and some of these were in red to show they were important.

We children were fascinated by Granny’s bible. Sometimes, she would read to us from it and as we grew older she helped us read the stories for ourselves. Opening granny’s bible was rather like opening a treasure chest.

And that’s just what the Bible is.

Of course granny’s bible was a King James Bible – the translation authorized by King James I and completed in 1611, 410 years ago this year. And for many English-speaking people it is still the only version with which they are familiar. So it continues to have a significant place in the life of the church and nation.   

But today we have a wealth of different versions of the Bible available to us and more appear on a regular basis. Around our house, we have 9 different versions. More for amusement than enlightenment, we have the Cockney Bible – stories from the Bible in Cockney rhyming slang – which is good fun to read out loud. While among more authoritative translations we have the New International version, the Jerusalem Bible, The New English Bible and the New Standard Revised version which is one our readings in church is selected from.

And we have all these modern translations because biblical studies are revealing more and more all the time about the meaning of the ancient texts of the original books, written in Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic. So scholars seek to express this growing understanding and to do so in the language of our time, rather than the language of bygone days.

The Bible tells us lots of stuff about God and Jesus. But the important thing is not merely to know lots of stuff about Jesus, but to be more like him. The words of the Bible must enter, not only our brains, but our hearts. Is that how you relate to your Bible?

The Bible is a storehouse of treasure. But do we treasure it? Or do we treat it more like costume jewellery – kept for use on appropriate occasions, but not part of our everyday lives. Or maybe it’s of sentimental value only; and remains on the shelf. We don’t want to lose it, but we don’t have much use for it.

Throughout the world, Bibles are like gold dust for millions people. They are desperate to get their hands on this book to read about God for themselves, but cannot do so. In some countries, in China for example, there just aren’t enough Bibles available, What is worse, in many parts of the world, the Bible is not available for many millions of people in their own language. In total 6912 languages are spoken in our world, but the majority of them still wait for even one book of the Bible. Gradually, the Bible is being translated in more languages. And having the Bible in our own language is vital if God is to be alive in us - if we are to know God – and know his love and his purposes. He has to be able to speak to us directly through the Bible.

Colin Cockshaw