Let Us Give Thanks for the Book

2296855678_f348e0d954_zAmerican Thanksgiving Day is celebrated this week. Everywhere, let us pray that all expressions of thanksgiving, whether by reflection, conversation or prayers of gratitude, will prompt abundant thanks for “the most influential book ever published” — the Bible.

But if this book is “most influential” why in Protestant ranks on this continent do surveys routinely pinpoint so much biblical illiteracy, especially among the young even in the churches?

Potential reasons come to mind: the constant lure of electronic entertainment, engagement steeped in social media, on-demand TV and movies; the push for multiculturalism in the schools; and a decline in Bible-reading by the family.

Above all other causes, could it be that we have lost sight of what a treasure this most influential book is and how crucial its truth is to our joy in this life and our security in the life to come?

This “most influential book ever published” is rightly considered to be one book, but with a special feature: it has 66 clear divisions. It is really an anthology, a collection written by as many as 40 authors covering a span of 1500 years. Few of the authors knew one another and they wrote in different locations, often separated by time and distance.

Paul the Apostle wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from about 1000 miles away by sea, confined as he was in the Mamertine prison in Rome; Ezekiel wrote from beside the River Chebar in Babylon, 900 travel miles east of Jerusalem; the Apostle John wrote while confined on the Isle of Patmos 35 miles offshore from modern Turkey, then known as Asia Minor.

Yet all the writings had to do with the same God, Jehovah, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Precisely how all parts of the book were brought together is in some cases a mystery. For example, who gathered the 150 psalms in the psalter from many different periods and from diverse places, to form the hymnbook for the reconstructed temple? We can speculate the great scribe Ezra did, but that is only speculation.

The Old Testament (the first 39 books of the Bible) was assembled for the Jews as the canon (the measuring rod for authority) during the second century B.C. It was a library divinely inspired. It is known the extant letters the Apostle Paul had written to many churches were collected for their abiding worth from wherever they could be found about 90 A.D, almost a generation after his death.

Late in the fourth century, the books of the Bible as we have them today were recognized as authoritative for the church. However, it was not the church’s recognition that gave them authority. Their authority had been given by God and was acknowledged in this way by the church. The writings had been self-authenticating from the start.

Thus, St. Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the Gospel: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

Also, St. Peter, wrote to believers who were suffering persecution for their faith: “Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20, 21).

We give profound thanks for this Book!

Dear Heavenly Father: We are blessed that you should put this most precious book into our possession. Forgive us for treating it superficially. During this special season of thanksgiving may its influence be greatly increased in our lives, especially producing the fruit of holiness. And if in our troubled times it should become dangerous to honor it, give us the courage to do so bravely. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Photo credit: le vent le cri (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “Let Us Give Thanks for the Book

  1. I’ve always admired American Thanksgiving Day.Though there ‘s no present giving and no decorations, tbere is the simple beauty of each family getting together to share a meal and thank God for something important.

    I agree , if we are to thank God for a single book,then it must be the Bible.Firstly it is a gift from God,it is God’s Word.God inspired various faithful human authors to write His Word – from Moses,David and Solomon through the major and minor prophets.The prophets are called major and minor ,not to reflect their importance,but to describe how long their books are.

    The Bible is more than a book.It is a library of knowledge and guidance from God to us,through God’s chosen writers.Apart from Moses,David ,Solomon and the prophets,these writers include the gospel writers, the evangelists Matthew,Mark,Luke ( who also wrote Acts) and John ( who also wrore Christian letters and his vision of the Apocalypse).After his conversion, Paul wrote many letters to various Mediterranean churches,makimng up a large part of the New Testyament.,and disciples like James and Peter also wrote letters of Christian instruction,which are incorporated into the Bible canon.

    Though widely read ,John Wesley described himself as’ a man of one book ‘, the Bible.This shows how important and valuable our Bible is.It contains all that is necessary to live a good life and die a good death, as a good Christian.

    If surveys show biblical literacy is low nowadays ,this is so unnecessary.For the Bible is so very available now

    .In the middle ages most people never had the oppurtunity to even read the Bible.With no printing,all Bibles had to be handwritten,making Bibles scarce. Bibles weree not not even available in common native tongues like English,German or Spanish until the later nedieval period.Then not many people could read ,even many priveleged people.,Most folk could never have access to or read the Bible.Still many knew much of the Bible’s content , by word of mouth.

    Bibles are so freely available now.Almost every family has at least one Bible in the home. The Gideons distribute Bibles free to hospitals ,prisons ,wherever they are needed.

    In fourteenth century England ,the Wycliffe bible,the first whole English New Testament Bible,written in middle English,similar to Chaucer’s English, was read up and down the country in secret bible study groups.Each Bible had to be copied by hand and possesion of a Bible in native English was punishable, even by death.Yet folk risked their life to attend the numerous underground Bible study groups where the Wycliffe Bible was secretly read and shared.

    A little later,before the first officialy permitted English Bible,Christians like William Tyndale and John Rogers sacrificed their lives to bring people a Bible they could read ,in their own native tongue.How glad they would be to know that now Bibles are freely available in English,in many different versions, at little or no expense and at no risk of imprisonment or execution.And literacy is high now so that most people are able to read,being taught to read in schools with education ,available to everyone,no mastter how poor.

    And yet still many don’t read the Bible.Surely John Rogers and William Tyndale would be astonished.

    Thinking how hard and dangerous it was ,just half a millenium ago,to read the Bible in a language we can understand,we must surely thank God it’s so easy to access the Bible now.Let us thank also, those brave Christians who gave their life so we may read God’s holy Word.

    Without their pioneering work,the Authorized Version in English would have never been sanctioned.What a pity so few folk know the Bible in the West now.

    One good thing to celebrate,though, ,is that the Bible has spread all over the world in these last few centuries.Wheras most Christians were in America and Europe a few hundred years ago,now most of the world’ s Christians live in Africa and Asia.The worldwide church of Christ is greater than ever.

  2. Thank you for the post. For more on John Wesley, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement’s effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is http://www.francisasburytriptych.com. Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you, for the post.

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