More than ink on pages

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, February 14, 2023

       This past week Michelle and I were in the nation’s capital. Between some meetings, we were able to visit the Library of Congress. Without a doubt, this is one of the most spectacular buildings I have ever visited. I was mesmerized by the grandeur and magnificence of the details found within. As we were making our way through the building, I was so captivated by the ceiling that I did not even notice a famous US Senator who walked right past me. Only afterward did Michelle tell me who had walked by me. The Library of Congress is truly a work of art. 

        Michelle and I discovered we could access the main reading room to do some research if we obtained a Library of Congress library card. After acquiring the details on how to get a library card, we followed the steps and in a short time we both had library cards for the Library of Congress. Later on that day after more meetings we returned, not as visitors, but as researchers who had access to the reading rooms of the library. After stopping by the rare books and special collections reading room where we learned how we could make the most of this area, Michelle and I made our way to the main reading room. Both of us selected a book from the collection and made our way to a desk. She chose a healthcare book for some of her research and I chose a book on theology. I have to admit, this was totally cool! To be reading a book from the Library of Congress collection in such a magnificent space was off the chain. 

       When we first arrived at the Library of Congress and made our way through security, we stopped at the information desk to be oriented on the area. One of the items that particularly caught my attention was a display upstairs that held an original copy of a Gutenberg Bible. A plaque on the case where the Bible was displayed stated that of the 180 Gutenberg Bibles printed, only about 50 survived. Of those 50 only 21 are complete. The Gutenberg Bible in the Library of Congress is one of only a few that were printed on animal skin. Later I did some research and discovered that a complete Gutenberg Bible ranges in value from 25-35 million dollars. I cannot imagine the price of the Bible in the Library of Congress, given its rarity. Needless to say, the Library of Congress had its copy displayed in a well-protected, environment-controlled case. 

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       A volunteer librarian shared two very interesting details about the Gutenberg Bible. First, Gutenberg only printed in black because that was the color used by scribes who copied the Bible by hand. The gold, red and other colors that are often pictured in a Gutenberg Bible were added later. The individual who purchased the Bible would hire a scribe or artist to enhance the Bible by adding these other colors. Second, the gothic font used by Gutenberg was done so in order to keep his printed version of the Bible as similar to that of a scribe as possible. The printed Gutenberg Bible was something new and Gutenberg wanted it to be as much like a handwritten Bible as possible so it would be accepted. 

       As a pastor, it was a privilege to see and learn about this treasure. It was the highlight of the trip for me. But as I thought about the Gutenberg Bible that is on display at the Library of Congress, the thought occurred to me, the Word of God is so much more than a treasure in a box. Of course, the Gutenberg Bible is a piece of history and deserves to be preserved and protected for future generations to see. I am thankful our government had the foresight to make this purchase and have it available for the general public to view. But the Bible is the Word of God that is active, living, and powerful. Scripture can transform a person’s life. It can bring comfort and peace in times of trouble and hardship. Scripture points to salvation as it reveals the Savior. The roadmap for living is found within. The Bible is not to just be on display in an environmentally controlled case, Scripture is meant to be read, studied and consumed. It is more than an artifact and more than ink on pages. Scripture is the Word of God to humanity. So though you likely don’t have a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, hopefully, you own another version. Pull it off the shelf or the table today and take a read. It will be valuable time spent.