The Alpha Course session Jane and I were helping lead this week was on the topic Why and How to Read the Bible? As a visual aid, I’d bought down a collection of Bibles pulled from our bookshelves but it wasn’t until I glanced at them sitting on the table in the meeting room that it struck me how each of them tells me stories.
There is the NIV study Bible, the spine repaired with black insulation tape and decorated with a hedgehog sticker, that I bought in 1990 and which was my main Bible during my first couple of years of university. I remember how my first attempt to buy a study Bible landed me with a commentary instead (useful but not quite the same thing) and how I took a trip to Leytonstone to buy a book that combined study notes – the Thompson Chain reference system – with the full Biblical text.
Or there was the New Revised Standard Version, I’d purchased a couple of months earlier. I remember reading it on a minibus travelling to a beach mission in Blackpool and wondering if some kind of miracle had occurred when I noticed my hands were sparkling with flecks of gold. Then I spotted that the gold decoration on the cover and the edge of the pages was rubbing off. Not such a miracle, then, but it brings back a memory.
Today, there is a lot to be said for electronic versions. Carry multiple versions round on a Kindle or mobile phone without adding any extra weight or look it up directly online and even have the text read out to you. However, those won’t carry the same physical memories as an actual dead tree edition. I think there is less need today to purchase a whole shelf full of Bibles (why not give some money so someone else can have a copy instead) but, in our ephemeral world, perhaps it is more important than ever to have a copy or two that you weave into the fabric of your own history.