“FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT” is a common expression in our country. Could this expression be applicable to many of us in our attitude toward the Bible? Could we be guilty of having a lack of respect for the Bible simply because it is so readily available?
Copies can be found in rummage sales, in almost every hotel room, and generally several copies in any home. For just $10 you can purchase a CD-ROM that holds six to 10 versions of the whole Bible, several Bible helps, a concordance and other items.
But does the overwhelming availability of the Bible cause us to become lax in our approach to it and cause us to lose some respect for it as the Word of God? Do we fail to stand in awe of it as the very word and will of God that has been preserved 2,000+ years for us today? Do we appreciate what God did to preserve it, so we can hold it in our laps today? Think about it. The Bible was written within a span of 1,500 years in three different languages by over 40 writers. Yet it is perfectly united in approach, without contradictions, as it presents the plan of Almighty God to his children.
Let’s stop and consider, for a moment, what was necessary in order that we could each hold the Word of God in our hands. Until the invention of the moveable-type printing press in about the year 1450, every copy of the Bible had to be hand-written with a quill-type pen and ink. It was written on either papyrus or parchment and eventually on paper. This was a slow, arduous task, as each copy had to be prepared from a previous copy.
What we call the “Old Testament” was written over a period of about 1,000 years. It appears that it basically was brought together during the time of Ezra and the scribes. To make a copy a scribe would read each word aloud, pronouncing it as he copied it down. When he finished with a section of scripture it was checked verbally, and by counting each word and even each letter in the entire section. Any mistake had to be corrected and then the whole process of checking repeated. If three or more errors were found, the entire section was discarded and the process started over again. It is obvious that these scribes stood in awe of the Word of God and dedicated their lives to it.
The “New Testament” was preserved in much the same way, though it was written over a period of only about 50 years. Again, copyists dedicated their entire lives to accurately copying the Word of God in order to preserve it and make it available. Due to the cost of this process, almost no one owned a personal copy of the Scriptures. Rather a church would have a copy all its members could use. During much of the time the Bible was written only in Latin–the language of the church, but not the people. Only the priests had access to it, and they read and “explained” it to the people. Everyone had to go to them. When copies were made in the languages of the people, these copies were confiscated and burned.
During the Middle Ages some congregations even resorted to what we might consider extremes in order to maintain God’s Word. They would divide the Bible into sections and assign each member of the congregation a section of Scripture to commit verbatim to memory. Then, if their copy of the Bible was confiscated, they could produce a new copy from memory by the collective congregation.
Down through the ages many have sacrificed their lives in order to preserve the Word of God and make it available. Others dedicated their entire lives to producing accurate copies of the Bible. Men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and many others gave their lives because they felt that it was vital that everyone have access to the Word of God. Some were strangled, as was William Tyndale, while others were burnt with their copy of the Bible hanging around their neck. They did this so that God’s Word would be available for us today.
The Word of God has been marvelously inspired, written and preserved for us today! Do we stand in awe of it? How much time do we spend drinking in of the Words of Life? It is so readily available and so accessible in so many forms, I wonder, “Has familiarity led to a lack of respect and even contempt for God’s Words of Life–the Bible?” The next time you pick up the Bible think about what went into making and preserving it for us today. It will help you to stand in awe of God’s Word.