Dave, writing recently in the Digital Faith web log, provided an interesting description of the Bible’s journey from ancient handwritten manuscripts to the modern printed volumes of today. Selections from his article appear below.
We often forget what a wonder it is to have personal copies of the entire library of scripture, often several sets, in our homes. This was not always the case.
In Old Testament times, holy writings were in the form of scrolls. Scrolls were handwritten, and were large and somewhat unwieldy; it would be rare for the average family to have many or even any scrolls in their home for personal study. Instead, readings from the scriptural scrolls were a public activity that occurred at a synagogue or other gathering place.
Christians pioneered the use of books for scripture. Why use books? One advantage is the reader can quickly access any page and any passage in the book.
An early Christian book in the first or second century might have selected passages from the Jewish Bible as the first half of the book, bound along with one of the gospels or some of the letters of Paul. Each small congregation or fortunate individual would certainly have treasured these small, bound, handwritten collections of just a few of the books we have in our present Bible.
The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible made using movable type, was published in 1455. There were only 180 copies made and it was still in Latin, but printing opened the floodgates and soon there were tens of thousands of copies of the Bible in circulation. A hundred years later, Bible translations in English were being printed.
After recounting the transmission of sacred scriptures from ancient to modern formats, and from a very limited audience to one that now includes potentially every person in the world, Dave asks, “What do we do with them?” He then offers suggestions for reading, learning from, and practicing what we find in the scriptures.
Read his article, The Technology of Scripture, on his web site.
In the following one-minute video, Elder M. Russell Ballard – an Apostle of Jesus Christ – discusses the Latter-day Saint view of the Bible and the miracle of its preservation to our day.
My brothers and sisters, the Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen.
It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today.
It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Elder Ballard’s address, The Miracle of the Holy Bible, is available in its entirety at the General Conference web site.