Over the last few weeks I've spent a lot of time on ebay in a vain attempt to prove a pet theory that January's listings contain treasure trove of bargains hidden in a glut of Christmas rejects.
If there were any bargains, then they are too well hidden for me dig up. But perusing listings for old Bibles gave me an idea for a new take on an old concept: the Family Bible.
A "Family Bible" seems to be more a product of economics than design, the high cost of early print media ensuring that most households simply couldn't afford a copy of Scripture for each member of the family. Later Victorian traditions saw these Bibles passed from generation to generation, and they became a record of family births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.
As print costs continued to decline it became feasible, and more practical, for everyone to have their own copy of God's Word. Whilst the effective and widespread distribution of the Bible is invariably A Good Thing, there are a number of ways that this changes how we approach reading Scripture together.
Sharing a Bible forces you to keep pace with the group, and keeps you focussed on a collective train of thought. This can improve discussion.
It's almost always impractical for the whole group to read together from the same shared physical book: those not reading have to listen. This is a subtle difference but one that changes the way people engage and respond to the reading.
By making the book itself a "finite resource" it somehow becomes more precious; I think this fosters a greater sense of respect and patience when reading together.
Many of these perceived benefits could be attributed to "novelty", and may fade with repetition; but I believe there is still a place for reading with only one copy of the Bible among a group.
I'd now like to present exhibit A, which is my wife's family scrapbook. She makes one consistently each year and they are very effective reminders of the things we got up to (despite my continued insistence that she is a hoarder, and that they are mostly books containing litter).
I secretly love these. Looking through them is a trip down memory lane, and it's amazing the things that you forget in such a short space of time. Preserving a record like this is tremendously useful, stimulating, and unifying activity.
A friend of mine has a similar concept in the form of a guest book which he asks all his guests to write in. I have been vigourously pursued weeks after a visit to ensure that I've contributed to this expanding volume of entertainment, sarcasm and comment. Again, it's a great reminder of the time he's shared with friends and family.
So why not reinvent the Family Bible along these lines?
- It's printed on A4, so has massive margins
- It's in a binder, so you can add your own notes pages
This is what it looks like (8
month [thanks for spotting that one hun...] week old for scale):
Now, whenever we have visitors and do Bible readings together, we can write the date, who we read with, and any comments they added. When my kids bring work back from Sunday School they can be punched into the relevant page of the Bible.
This is now our combination Family Bible, guest book, and scrap book (although with less litter).