The black leather cover had started to crack. The family tree in the middle contained some faded notes made by one of my paternal great grandmothers. When my mother introduced our family Bible to me as a kid, it felt like an important piece of history had been placed into my hands. I had no idea at the time just how important the Bible would become to me throughout my life.
Each time I opened our Bible on my own I was fascinated by the names, the stories, and the notion that it represented experiences from thousands of years ago. Early on, I’ll admit I was more curious about the people my great grandmother had written into the family tree than I was about the people in the stories. I was in elementary school at the time. My understanding of the Bible’s significance was just starting to form.
Next, I remember my mom pointing out the Psalms to me. She taught me to start including Psalm 23 in my nightly prayers. She also taught me another prayer that I don’t know the origin of, but I can still hear her voice saying it out loud as if it were yesterday:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
This short prayer actually worried me a little bit at first. I remember thinking, “Waitshould I be afraid to go to sleep?! Is something going to happen to me in the night?” My mom helped me to see that I was interpreting it literally rather than more symbolically as intended (some things never change). She also taught me about the meaning of the line, “I pray the Lord my soul to take.” It was then that I started to learn about, and more fully appreciate, who Jesus was and is. That appreciation made me much more curious about the Bible and the stories. It also led to my eventual acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Thanks, Mom.
Fast forward about 40 years to my first trip to London, and my first encounter with the Codex Sinaiticus at the British Library. The Codex is what remains of a hand-written book that contained all the Christian scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, together with two late first-century Christian texts, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. The Codex is a significant ancient text in history because it is one of the two earliest surviving manuscripts. The full ‘canon’ (i.e., collection of accepted texts, as we have recently learned from Tom) of the Christian Bible was copied into one volume, making the Codex what came before our modern Christian Bibles. It dates back to approximately the fourth century.
Seeing the Codex last year had a profound effect on me and on my faith journey. There was something about seeing that ancient text that felt like a full circle moment. It’s not as though I ever doubted the formulation of the Bible; seeing some of the formative documents just made the Bible feel real in a new way. Standing in front of that glass case in the British Library, I realized I was looking at a sacred treasure that was recorded centuries before for me and for all of us who now seek to understand it better. I felt grateful and somewhat awestruck at the sight of it.
The family Bible I once held in my hands was also a treasure in our family. I was taught to treat it with respect. Over time, I was also taught to be thoughtful about its contents. The values it highlighted became a cornerstone in my life. Reading Adam Hamilton’s helpful book, Making Sense of the Bible, has made me appreciative of the Bible all over again. I also think my mom would be proud to know that her efforts decades ago lit the spark of curiosity that I still have about the Bible, and Jesus.