American 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)