The Bible is not a book. I know we talk about the Bible as if it is a book. I know we praise God for giving us his book. I know we tend to buy our Bibles from book stores. But it’s not a book. Not really. We’ve confused the nature of the thing with its form.
The Bible is a collection. It is a collection of all that God meant to communicate to us through inerrant and infallible words. The apostle Peter describes it well: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). God spoke, men wrote. Men wrote the exact words of God exactly as he breathed them out. Over 1,600 years they wrote them as histories, as letters, as prophecies, and as poetry. They wrote whatever he spoke until he stopped speaking.
What should be done with all of these writings? The answer was obvious: They needed to be collected and combined to form a canon, the complete works of a single author. In Moses’ day the Bible was words spoken and memorized and passed along through oral tradition. In Jesus’ day the Bible was a collection of scrolls. In Paul’s day the Bible was that same collection of scrolls with handwritten letters added to it. But in every form it has always been the Bible.
Today we know the Bible as The Good Book only because for the past few centuries the book has been the dominant medium through which we encounter it. But it has not always been that way, and will not always be that way. As the dominant medium has changed, so too has its form. Today it is The Good Book, but before that it was The Good Codex and before that The Good Scroll.
Now here is why I tell you all of this: The Bible transcends form. It transcends media. Not only that, but whatever the form, whatever the media, it has proven dominant. The reason we have such confidence that it has been faithfully transmitted through history is that it has been so widely copied and disseminated in every form.
Not too long from now the Bible will transition from being The Good Book to being The Good App. As information migrates to digital media, the Bible will make the shift, just as it has through every other literary media. But through our little glimpse at history we know that we have nothing to fear from the appification of information. Since the dawn of the printing press, the Bible has been the most dominant book. We have no reason to doubt that in time it will prove the dominant app. And when apps have had their day and we move to whatever is next, the Bible will remain and will dominate.
As one medium gives way to another, we do well to remind ourselves of what the Bible really is. Not a book, but something far better, and far more transcendent. It is the enduring words of God himself.