You can buy a copy of the Bible at Walmart for $6. Pay a little more and several other versions or formats are available there.
The Bible Societies in Canada and the United States go Walmart one better. They distribute hundreds of thousands of free Bibles every year in places where people yearn for the Sacred Scriptures. The Gideons also offer Bibles free for the asking.
Whether purchased or received as a gift, to add up all the monetary expenses involved in producing a Bible is one way to determine its cost. That gives one a dollar figure.
Perhaps a more meaningful way to think about “cost” is to trace the personal sacrifice some of the Lord’s special servants throughout the centuries have made to make the Bible available to ordinary people like you and me.
Let’s start with Jesus’ Apostles — fishermen, tax collectors, zealots — all common men who responded without reservation to Jesus’ call to follow him as teacher and Lord.
They walked with him for three years, witnessed his miracles, heard his matchless parables, let him down seriously a time or two, and ended up believing from their hearts that, as their leader, he was the Son of God; he spoke the words of eternal life.
After his death they witnessed his resurrection and shared in his living presence for forty days. Two of them, Matthew and John, later took great pains to set down in writing what they had seen, heard, and come to believe about him. But the truth they believed put the rest of their lives at risk.
Ten of the original twelve suffered a martyr’s death. They would rather die than renounce their faith in their Lord. This apostolic faithfulness and consequent suffering must be factored into the hidden cost of the Bibles we own today.
After many generations of expansion, the developing church entered into a period often referred to as the dark ages – roughly 500 AD to 1500 AD. During that period church authorities determined that the Bible should be kept out of the hands of the laity and be reserved only for the eyes of the clergy. The laity, they said, could not be trusted to read and understand it correctly.
Into that atmosphere toward the end of the 14th century came a number of men — highly educated and devout Oxford scholars — who did not share such distrust of the laity. Led by the Holy Spirit they preached the Gospel and developed portions of the Bible in printed form. Foremost among these men was John Wycliffe.
With the aid of scholars around him, Wycliffe produced the first Bible in the English language. For doing so he suffered resistance and scorn. The reproach he bore must be added to the real cost of the Bible we read daily.
More than 100 years later, in the fifteenth century William Tyndale came on the scene at a time when the common man’s yearning to have in hand a copy of the Bible had grown even stronger. Pressures against distribution of the Bible increased as laws were passed forbidding private ownership.
William Tyndale, an Englishman, had to work in disguise on the continent of Europe to translate and print the results of his work. He had Bibles printed and shipped to England in bales of hay or loads of corn. The excellent translation produced as a result of his work was to some degree reflected in the King James Version.
But his identity was uncovered in Holland, and in a public execution he was strangled and his body burned at the stake. At tremendous cost, he too contributed to the placing of the Bible in the hands of the common English man or woman.
What causes this book to weather such storms and continue to hold a solid place in the minds and hearts of Christians around the world? It has the marks of sacrifice on it, and the glow of divine truth on its pages, illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
It is good for us from time to time to review these facts as we sit in the comforts of our home or dorm room, Bible in lap. The cost of that Bible when properly reckoned would be beyond anything we could pay. In those moments, we read from a priceless treasure.