The Bible - Make It a Part of You

The Bible - Make It a Part of You

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14

“The only Bible you’ve got is the Bible you know.” It was a comment that I had heard repeatedly from one of my mentors and now I was hearing it again. I didn’t mind the repetition, because: 1) I knew that it was true, and 2) I knew that I needed to be constantly reminded of it. “The only Bible you’ve got is the Bible you know.” Quite honestly when I first heard it I fought hard against the assertion. I responded by pointing out the Bible in my hand and said that this was my Bible. At the time I admit that I didn’t know it the way I should, and I certainly didn’t have the whole thing memorized. But, as time went on, and as I began to read my Bible more, the statement rang true: the only Bible you’ve got is the Bible you know. Rather, I should say that, the only Bible you’ve always got with you in a truly intimate sense is the Bible that is a part of you—the Bible that is internalized. That’s not the same as just owning a print Bible. 

The internalized Bible is the Bible that guides your thoughts and your actions. It’s the Bible that has become more or less instinctual. It’s the Bible upon which you meditate when you are awake in the middle of the night. It’s the Bible that comes to mind when you have received jarring, life-altering news. It’s the Bible that expresses itself with your voice in times of joy and gladness. It’s the Bible that you’ve read, the Bible that you’ve memorized, the Bible on your lips in times of prayer. It’s the Bible that guides your Gospel proclamation, your witness to the world. The only Bible you’ve really got is the Bible you know. It is the Bible which you carry around in your heart and in your mind. It’s the Bible that the Holy Spirit uses to transform your life from the inside out. That is the Bible that is a part of you. It’s not static. It should be ever increasing. 

The Bible is not just a pile of leather, cardboard, glue, paper, and ink sitting on a shelf—a book collecting dust. Rather, it’s a motion of the Holy Spirit molding us into Christ’s likeness as the Word of God made flesh. The Bible is an event—a powerful event—and it always has been, not just for the reader but also for the writers who penned it and the scribes who have carried it down through the ages. The Holy Spirit has not ceased to be at work. 

Who knows how many forms St. Paul’s letter to the Romans took before he sent it along with Phoebe? And before that, how many times did Paul mull it over in his head before he spoke it aloud to be written down? What about Galatians or 2 Corinthians? Surely those letters in particular were produced with much deliberation. I know I don’t just approach my own sermons cold every Sunday morning. There’s a lot that goes into them. Who knows how many forms these letters of Paul took before he decided to publish them into circulation along with the others? Once the texts left the hands of the apostles they would then be copied and translated continually for the next 1,500 years—and even longer in some circumstances. Further, they would be printed and retranslated. As technology developed, so did the text. While the text would be studied with increasing precision, the physical form would take so many different shapes for all kinds of different circumstances. The Bible has been active in history. 

In a series of lectures given at the University of Oxford in the Spring of 2011, which were then published the following year, textual scholar David Parker sought out a new approach to understanding the vast manuscript tradition that we have largely taken for granted in modern times. He says that his approach 

celebrates the scribes and their productions in all their magnificence and drabness, their skill and their limitations, the careful writers and the casual ones, the calligraphy and the scrawls, the workaday and the deluxe. We will attempt to examine the texts and the works of the New Testament with the scribes and the manuscripts always in our minds.

He then writes, “In order to achieve this, I propose the following dictum, That every written work is a process and not an object.” He goes on to to qualify that, yes, this process produces objects, but there is so much that goes into them that we take for granted. Likewise modern textual scholarship is never truly complete in itself. Every generation and iteration offers something new. The Bible as it has been passed down through the ages has taken different forms and has been used in different ways as it’s interacted with different communities, and been internalized by different communities over various times. 

I think that this is often overlooked by Christians. Your favorite English translation of the Bible didn’t just fall out of the sky, just like milk doesn’t magically appear at the grocery store in plastic gallon jugs. If we acknowledge this reality then it helps us to better understand what happens when the Bible reaches our own hands, our own ears, our own lips, our own thoughts and perceptions, our own hearts. For the past 2,000 years, the Holy Spirit has been at work using it to transform the world. Today he uses it to transform us. He makes it a part of us, and that formation is a process. The only Bible you’ve got is the Bible you know. It’s the Bible that you’ve experienced. And technology has an effect on how that all takes place.

I don’t think it’s any accident that the advent of multi-spectral imaging which allows you to see a manuscript in ways that have never been possible before, the publication of manuscripts online, and the narrow focus on individual manuscripts studying each one in its own right has occurred alongside the development of the journaling Bible, the prayer Bible, the visual faith Bible, the reader’s Bible, of which there has been a seeming publication explosion over the last decade or two. Our experience of the Bible has begun to mirror more closely that of the 9th century scribe than that of the mid-20th century reader, and yet our technology has allowed us to pursue another iteration. Plenty of ink has been spilled on this in other areas. 

My point here is that we are now able to engage the Bible in ways that we haven’t ever before. So, do it! Find different ways of going about it. We have the opportunity to make it a part of us in ways that were previously overlooked or even impossible before. For example, I just love sitting down with my ESV Reader’s Bible and experience the text with no verse or chapter numbers. I internalize it differently. I see things that I never saw before. The text becomes a part of me in ways that it previously hadn’t. 

The Holy Spirit is very much at work in this world and in our lives. He hasn’t stopped and He won’t stop. In a society that has largely disengaged the Bible, it needs to experience the text—and its message—as it lives and breaths through us. The only Bible you’ve got is the Bible you know. The Bible that has come to be inside of you is much more valuable than the one left to gather dust on the shelf. So pick up the latter and devour it any way you can. Make it a part of you and trust the Holy Spirit to do his work. The incarnation of God’s Word is why we gather together as Christians in the first place.

[1]  David Parker, Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 20.

[2]  Parker, Textual Scholarship, 20–21.

[3] For example, see:  Codex Sinaiticus.

Complain to God

Complain to God