A few months back I purchased a family Bible that dates back to 1858. The large Bible has a leather cover with a patina that testifies of its age. Turning through the thick pages of the Bible reveals various artifacts of family history: a pressed flower, a funeral announcement and fabric remnant, a written note from husband to wife. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament is a handwritten record of the births, deaths, and marriages in the family dating from the early 1800s into the early 1900s. A century of history carefully kept throughout many decades and written with various fountain pens.
When this Bible was published James Buchanan was the President of the United States, a country that was quickly heading towards the Civil War. It is fair to assume that this Bible was a treasured possession and would have cost a considerable amount of money in a time when “disposable income” was almost unheard of. This Bible could have traveled across country with the family in a wagon as they looked for better opportunities. The possibilities for various story lines about the history of this Bible are almost endless, but one thing is clear…at some point this family treasure was left behind.
I purchased this Bible for $3 in an auction a few months ago. When I took possession the Bible was wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from falling apart. Age had caught up with the book binding which had cracked in the middle leaving several sections loose. The Bible is still complete but is in a state of disrepair. What once was a treasured family item, a storehouse of family history, was sold to a stranger in an online auction for less than the cost of a happy meal.
This Bible was part of my presentation this weekend at a youth event where I was asked to speak about “How We Got the Bible.” I had several Bible items from the 1800s that the kids could put their hands on so they could feel the age and history of these texts. It was my hope that having a hands on experience with 150 years of history might give them more connection to the centuries of Bible history that precede us.
At the close of my presentation I gave the class a charge. I picked up the 1858 Bible and spoke about the treasure that this was to a family at some point in history. A plausible storyline for the history of that particular Bible was given. Then I challenged the class with the idea that this treasure became of no value to some generation in the family and was cast aside. I sent them on their way with the charge to make sure that the message of the Bible was an indispensable treasure for their families. That closing statement lead to several conversations after the various class sessions that I facilitated.
Last week I wrote about the waste of a disposable society and I guess this post is a bit of a continuation. My wife and I constantly struggle with making sure that the Bible receives the attention in our family that it deserves. We don’t want this treasure to be cast aside in our family and we want to make sure that this treasure is honored not only in the lives of our children but in the lives of their children and future generations. That is the driving force behind the Written On My Heart Bible challenge. A physical copy of the Bible may come and go but the Word written in the heart is difficult to lose. I encourage you to check out Week 7 of our challenge – Written On My Heart – Week 7