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Hallo again to all.

Earlier this week, while working our secular job (regretfully, Anglicans Online does not pay our bills), we noticed a colleague carrying a small, worn, leatherbound book, with thin gilded-edged pages under his arm. We inquired, with a mixture of admitted nosiness and true curiosity, as to his purpose in carrying a bible during this time of day. He feigned a moment of surprise that it was so immediately recognised as a bible.

We tend to assume that the Bible, in all of its editions and translations, is the best selling book in the world. However, unlike many other bestsellers* the physical form of the Bible is often elevated. Though it was not uncommon throughout history for books to have gilded edges, leather bindings, and careful illustrations, in modernity, this presentation is typically reserved for bibles and the occasional prayer book. Appointments typically reserved for display items or special editions are oddly common on even the rather affordable tomes. We find it intriguing that we elevate the physical form of a book that is, in and of itself, simply a book. Followers of Islam hold their holy book, the Qu'ran (in Arabic) to be a direct dictation of the word of God. As Anglicans, we believe that though 'Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation'† the physical form of the book itself, remains a book.

This is not to say, of course, that all bibles follow any standard sort of embellishment pattern. There are countless translations and editions ranging from thick study bibles to trendy paperback paraphrases in thousands of languages. While some Christian traditions place an inordinate amount of attention on the volume itself, and keeping its pages pristine and pure, we'll admit to having years of marginalia, turned pages, underlines and comments in our dearest copy (a white NIV whose origins we no longer remember). Our bookshelf is filled with different editions for different purposes: The Oxford Annotated for studying, a hardbound NRSV for personal prayer, and the Vulgate for research and history.

We find something oddly comforting in opening the soft cover and turning thin pages to see the two columns of text—a format otherwise reserved for dictionaries, encyclopediæ, and telephone directories. Unlike our Bible-carrying colleague, upon reflection, we find this to be a less common occurrence in our life than we wish it to be—as we often pray the Daily Office on our tablet and follow the scripture readings during mass in our service leaflet. We look not only to the Bible for our understanding of what it means to be Christian, but also to the writings of the early church, and the shared experience of Christians throughout history. These all feed into what we know it means to 'be church'. As Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury wrote:

'So you can't pull the Bible and the Church apart. It's not that first of all you have a group of human beings who cast around for an interesting book to read and they find the Bible; nor is it that the Bible falls from heaven and a little bit later some people gather round it as a Church. No, from the very beginning the Church has listened to the Bible and the Bible has echoed in the life of the Church.' ‡

We find the Church and the Bible uniquely bound to each other, and thus ourselves bound to both. Regardless of binding—sewn or perfect, hardcovered or coiled we love them all.

Do you have a preference? For what purpose, and why? Share it with us!

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

24 August 2014

* Best selling books of all time include: A Tale of Two Cities, Lord of the Rings, Le Petit Prince, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and dare we mention 50 Shades of Grey

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. 39 Articles.

‡ The Rt. Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams. 'Archbishop on The Bible in the Life of the Church Project' 4 June 2010

For further reading about the Bible and it study, visit our Bible and Biblical Resources pages.

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