Opening Up the Bible 2008

1. How We Got the Bible

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cambridge ON

Sunday April 20 2008

10:00 a.m.

Children's Message Prep:

Children's Message:

-Who has a favourite Bible story?

[When I was your age, I really liked Samson,

as well as David and Goliath.]

-How many of you have your own Bible?

-Did you get it as a present on a special day?

-If you don't have a Bible,

I hope you'll ask someone to buy you

a Children's Bible this week

so you can have one of your very own,

and read it.

-I'd like to challenge you

to read a story from your Bible

every night this week at bedtime!

-And I'm going to challenge the adults as well!

-Maybe you could even remind your parents this week

to read you a Bible story each night.

-And then you'd both be taking up the challenge!

-I have lots of Bibles.

-On the altar are some of my favourites.

-Let me tell you about them ....

(include Bible in pda)

-Next Sunday,

and for a few Sundays after that,

I'd like you to bring your favourite Bible to worship.


Thank you Jesus, for coming to us through the words of the Bible. Help us all to want to meet you through the words of the Bible. Amen.

-Today is Earth Day,

a special time to recognize that all creation

is connected in inter-dependence.

-Here's a colouring page to remind us

of how all creation is important.


-In 1995

a federal appeals court1

agreed with the overturning of a death sentence.

-In the first trial,

a man had been declared guilty of kidnap, rape, and


-But that verdict had been subsequently overturned.

-And that overturning had been upheld on appeal.

-The reason for giving the convicted murderer

his freedom?

-According to the judge,

it was because jurors had inappropriately brought in

extraneous material – Bibles.

-And then they used their Bibles

for an unsanctioned discussion of the passage

An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth....

Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.”2

-The saddest part, however,

is not that Bibles were banned from the deliberation.

-Saddest is that the jurors hadn't noticed

that in the Gospel of Matthew,

Jesus rejects the eye-for-an-eye rule,

calling us instead, to “turn the other cheek.”3

-One religious scholar4,

commenting on this story, wrote:

Who's most at fault here?

The jurors ... who may well have known of Jesus'

repudiation of the old law,

but chose to ignore it?

Or any liberal [juror present]

who didn't [even] know enough

to bring up [Jesus' view]?”

-Sometimes it seems that the Bible is either misused

as it was by these jurors

or not used at all

in the case of those who either ignored Jesus' words

or maybe didn't even know them.

-In surveys5, it's been discovered

that fewer than half of North Americans

can name any one of the 4 gospels.

-Most don't know

that Genesis is the 1st book of the Bible.

-And a sizeable minority think that Sodom & Gomorrah

were a happily married biblical couple.

-They're not – Sodom and Gomorrah were towns6,

in trouble with God.

-You may have heard about one of the

so-called mega churches:

Willow Creek church in Illinois.

-Each weekend they see an average of

17,000 worshippers.

-Sometimes we look at congregations like that,

and think they must have it all figured out.

-Yet recently,

Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek,

made a somewhat surprising confession:

We made a mistake... [he says.]

we should have started telling people and

teaching people

that they have to take responsibility

to become ‘self feeders.’

We should have gotten people,

taught people,

how to read their bible ...on their own.7

-Our new national Bishop, Susan Johnson,

met with the National Church Council last month.

-Together they discerned five pillars

to help us be more faithful

in discerning and following God's call

to be a church In Mission for Others.

-One of these five pillars is “Spirited Discipleship”,

and it includes Bible Study,

because God is calling us deeper into discipleship.

-Our sister church, the ELCA,

has also heard a call from God to study Scripture.

-They're calling it “The Book of Faith” initiative,

and it “invites the whole church

to become more fluent in the first language of faith,

the language of Scripture,

in order that we might live into our calling as a people renewed, enlivened, empowered, and sent

by the Word.”8

“Part of our calling is to know, hear, share,

and be rooted in, Scripture”

proclaims this study initiative.

-There seems to be a common consensus

that an emphasis on Bible Study

would be helpful for the church –

across denominations – today.

-Did you know that the Bible

is the best-selling book of all time?

-If it were listed on the New York Times

Best Seller” list,

it would appear virtually every week!

-Millions of copies are sold every year!

-Today, the Bible exists in more than

2000 languages and dialects,

so that 97% of all the world's peoples

can read it in their own native language.9

-Did you know

that if we were to read the Bible

in its original written languages,

we'd need to learn Hebrew and Greek?

-Hebrew, because that's the language of

God's people in the Old Testament.

-And Greek, because in New Testament times,

Greek was the most-widely-known language,

so the New Testament was written in Greek.

-Later, when Latin supplanted Greek

as the international language of choice,

the Bible was translated into Latin.

-Martin Luther was one of the first

to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek

into the language of the people

in his time and place, that was German

so that everyday ordinary folk could read it.

-Most of us are familiar with the King James

translation of Scripture,

released in 1611

in the language of Elizabethan England.

-Much like the language of Shakespeare,

it can be difficult to understand today.


we have many translations into modern English.

-But the Bible was not always available in written form.

-Did you know

that long before writing had even been invented,

the Old Testament originated as stories?

-Stories about God's interaction with us.

-Stories which were told and retold carefully,

and then eventually written down –

also very carefully.

-The printing press wasn't invented until Luther's time.

-And of course,

photocopying didn't become a reality

until our time.

-So these stories were written by hand.

-And then these early writings

were meticulously copied by hand,

so that more people could read them.

-As an example of the scribes' accuracy and care

in making these copies,

an early copy of the book of Isaiah

from about 100 years before Christ

was compared with a copy of Isaiah

from 1000 years later.

-In all that time,

as various scribes made their hand-written copies,

95% of the text remained identical!

-It's not like the game of “Telephone

in which a message is whispered along a line of people.

-In the game of “Telephone

the message changes drastically as it's passed along!

-Sometimes hilariously so!

-But the biblical scribes took such care,

that over 1000 years,

the copy was as good as the one they compared it to.

-Even photocopiers today

wouldn't be able to duplicate that feat!

-Imagine making a photocopy of a photocopy,

and repeating it 500 to a thousand times!

-The final would be so faint as to be


-But how did these stories

which were eventually written down and then copied

how did these stories, traditions, songs, wise sayings,

poetry, and prophetic words

get collected into the one book we know as the Bible?

-It happened as a process

which too place over a period of many, many years.

-None of those who first wrote down these oral stories

would ever have dreamed that their works

would be gathered together as Scripture.

-They were simply recording in written form

the important stories and traditions of their people.

-Or, in the case of the New Testament,

authors of the gospels

were simply recording in written form

what they had heard or seen of Jesus.

-St. Paul never intended

that his letters to various congregations

would be considered Scripture.

-These people were inspired by God

to create something that would be helpful

to God's people.

-Over time,

some of these various writings

became recognized as the most valuable.

-For example, there are more than 100

different gospels, written about Jesus,

but the Bible gathers only four of them–

those recognized to be the best of the best,

as congregations came to see their value.

-The Bible was created by the church

through a process of sifting and selecting –

a process which took time.

-The oldest book of the Old Testament

was first written down about 1100 BC.

-The first five books of today's Bible

came to be regarded as Scripture about 400 BC.

-But it wasn't until 98 AD

that a council of Jewish scholars at Jamnia

sifted through the various possibilities

and agreed upon what was to be the Hebrew Scriptures.

-Our books of the New Testament

were written between 50 AD and about 125 AD.

-But it took many centuries and many disputes,

until the present list of 27 New Testament books

was adopted as our New Testament.

-Luther himself continued to raise questions

about including the book of James in scripture.

-How we got the Bible

was through a long process of discernment

and inspiration.

-Stories, traditions, songs, wise sayings, poetry,

and prophetic words

were first told, and much later written down.

-These writings were then laboriously and carefully

copied by hand,

circulated, and preserved.

-Over centuries,

Jews and Christians gradually sifted through the possibilities of writings,

eventually choosing those that would be considered


-Those choices, as well,

were laboriously and carefully copied by hand,


and preserved.


we read translations of these copies.

-Through the centuries,

these books we know as Scripture

have served to reveal God to us.

-They've inspired, challenged, corrected, and nourished

God's people.

-They've formed us in faith,

and they've integrated us into the family of faith.

-They've provided a solid basis and foundation

for our understanding of God's will for us.

-Starting next week,

I'd like you to bring your favourite Bible to worship.

-Over the next few weeks,

we'll take a look at some of the highlights of Scripture,

and it will be helpful to have a Bible with you

as we do so.

-It's my hope that in the process,

we'll get better acquainted with Scripture,

and better equipped to be met by God

through the words of the Bible.

#514 O Word of God Incarnate

Sending Thought: “Translation Please”

The Benediction follows ....,9171,1601645,00.html

2Leviticus 24.17ff

3Matthew 5.38ff

4Stephen Prothero, chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn't.


6Genesis 19.12ff

7 and


9Jackie Nunns: OpeningUp the Bible. 2004.