Blogger: Amber Schamel
Most of us Americans own a Bible in our own language...if not several. But have you ever stopped to think about how blessed we are to have it? Let’s take a trip through history to see what a Bible in one’s own language has cost in the past.
The Torah at Jesus’ Time
During Jesus’ day, most synagogues had a copy of the Torah, like the one Jesus read from in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). However, most families did not own a copy, and if they did, it was most likely a single book rather than the entire collection of the five books of Moses, the Psalms and Prophets.
Can you imagine if you had to go to church to read the Bible at all?
The Holy texts were copied by meticulous scribes who not only threw out an entire portion of writing for a single mistake (like two letters touching), but also the portion next to it for touching the section with a mistake. Most often, the scrolls were inscribed on the skins of clean animals like sheep or goats. Considering the book of Isaiah (such as the one found in Qumran) was about 30 feet long, and the typical sheep or goat skin was only around three feet in length, the material alone would be pricey. Not to mention the scribe’s labor, which would have been at least 30 hours. According to an ancient currency scholar, a scribe charged 25 denarii per 100 lines of such writing, which would have been around 3 or 4 columns. So for the 54 columns in Isaiah, the scribe would charge somewhere around 450 denarii.
|Qumran Scrolls - Public Domain
The New Testament Church
The Gospels and the letters of Paul were much easier for common folks to acquire. They were shorter and already in the common language of the time. Many copies of these were made, and they would have been much cheaper given the use of papyrus paper rather than animal skins and the length. We could never be sure how many copies were made, but scholars have counted over 5800 in Greek. But keep in mind that every copy had to be made and delivered by hand. There were no printing presses spitting out thousands of copies of Paul’s newsletters. Considering the Apostles had thousands converted in a single day, these copies would not have sufficed very well.
The Dark Ages
After the world fell into the Dark Ages, getting a Bible in a language other than Latin was nearly impossible. In fact, if you were caught with a Bible in something other than Latin, you could be executed.
|Gutenberg Bible - By NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) [CC BY-SA 2.0]
What about today?
Today, we can purchase a Bible for less than an hour’s wages at any local Walmart. Or even download it free on any phone or device. But I wonder if this cheapened the value of the Scriptures without us realizing it. If you had to pay $30,000 for your Bible, how much would you read it? Would you leave it on the shelf to collect dust? The Scriptures haven’t changed, the truth in them remains the same, as does the power contained in those words.
This year, I resolve in my heart to cherish my Bible and treat it as if it’s worth my life and livelihood. What about you? Do you think you cherish your Scripture as much as you should?
Author of over half a dozen books, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!