God Didn’t Write a Book

The Bible is a book—God’s book. Even a child knows this, right? Except that the Bible isn’t a book. Not really.

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The Bible was at first oral transmission passed from person to person, events and conversations observed, remembered, and shared. But it was still the Bible.

Then the Bible was a collection of scrolls, each containing a single letter or history or group of psalms. But it was still the Bible.

Then the Bible was a series of codices, large sheets of vellum folded in half and tied together along the fold. But it was still the Bible.

Then, at last, the Bible was printed on paper and bound between two covers. And only now was the Bible a book. It took the printing press to make the Bible a book, but it didn’t take the printing press to make the Bible the Bible.

Then the Bible was … well, it goes on and on through cassettes and compact discs and a hundred different media. Every time we’ve created a new medium, it has soon contained the Bible.

Today the Bible is bits and bytes, an app or a website or a collection of MP3 files. But it’s still the Bible. It’s still just as much the Bible as when it was ink on onion paper stitched between two leather covers.

For most of humanity’s past the Bible was not a book. For most of humanity’s future the Bible will probably not be a book. Many of our fears about the future of the Bible are based on careless thought about its history. We assume that since we first encountered the Bible as a book, this is how it has always been and how it must always be. Now, as the printed book begins to fade, many are worried that the Bible will fade with it. But it won’t because the Bible is not essentially a book. It is essentially God’s recorded words to humanity, and those words transcend any single medium. Books, like scrolls and codices, will fade into history. The Bible will remain.