I consider old Bibles as old friends. I have many. I’m never sure why I stop using one and start another. I suppose it has to do with being attracted to the new. Or perhaps, thinking one translation is better than another. Or perhaps believing being different is being – well, different. Besides, if everyone uses the same translation, how do we learn from those who might think differently, even better, than we do?
When I pulled my old RSV Bible from the shelf the other day I thought it looked in remarkably good condition for being over 30 years old. It was amazing how comfortable it felt in my hands. As I thumbed through the pages I found that I had underlined almost every passage in Genesis. Each with a different color. One for the Priestly source, one for the Yahwistic sources, and one for the Elohistic sources. Not certain what I gained from that exercise, but it looked nice! All the underlining was done with a ruler, so it was very precise; unlike what I do now – freehand, using a business card, or any other semi-straight edge thing lying around on my desk. I also noticed there were very few, if any, notes in the margins. Most of my other “old friends” have copious notes scribbled in the margins. Some I can still read and others, like my current ones, not so much. It’s hard getting older with hands that, for some reason, have a mind of their own.
Do you have any “old friends?” How often, if at all, do you pull them off the shelf? Are you surprised by your notes or old sayings scribbled in the front? I still have the first Bible I ever owned from November 1968. I bought it myself just a month after making a commitment to Christ and just before I was baptized. It’s pretty special to my heart, but nevertheless, just an “old friend.”
There’s a note I have written in an old KJV Bible from some 35 years ago. I came across the note in college. I was in the library looking at hymnals for a research paper. In one of the hymnals, carefully written on the inside page, I read these words ; “Dear God, would you please be my own dearest friend.” It was signed, “From a very lonely girl.” I often think of that girl and wonder where she is, what she might be doing and how her and God are doing. After all, I’m absolutely sure he was more than happy to be her dearest friend.
Well, I’ll confess, my “old friend” has gone back on the shelf. I have a new friend now and have for several years. It’s the NRSV, hardbound, with Apocrypha and thumb indexed (see I told you getting older is hard). But I still forgo the red-letter editions. I’m pretty sure I can figure out when Jesus is speaking and when he’s not.