Monday, March 3, 2014

THE ELECTRONIC WORD


More and more electronic devices keep appearing in my adult Sunday Bible studies.  At first it was one or two of those little electronic Bibles that looked like cell phones, then along came smart phones, tablets and other devices.  Still, a greater percentage of students carry bound paper Bibles, but these folks are older and their number is decreasing.  I can't help but wonder if and when the time will come when I'll be the only dinosaur.  (Your wife will be too. - Uni)

I love My Bible(s).  I don't own any electronic version nor do I even know how to find one on my computer.  What's more, I don't even own any of those electronic aids.  I have shelves of aids - books - taking up space in my study: dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, Greek and Hebrew grammars.  All of these could be thrown out and replaced by a few discs or online subscriptions.  I have many reasons (or excuses) for not doing so: I have a lot of money invested in these and can't afford to invest in any more; I started with these and know my way around in them; I need the exercise of pulling them off the shelves.  (Liddell and Scott's Lexicon of Ancient Greek weighs 8 pounds.)

Please don't misunderstand.  I'm no Luddite.  I don't object to technology as such.  I'm using it right now!  Christians, as people of the Word, have always been open to technological advancement, especially in the area of communication.  For instance, Christians were among the first to utilize the codex - the modern book form - as opposed to scrolls;  it made Scriptural preaching much simpler when one could locate a passage more easily.  The printing press was welcomed by the early Reformers and Bible translators as a way to get the Word into the hands of the common people - the plowboy and the milkmaid.

And so we welcome the new ways of accessing and studying the Word.  A recent article in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, "The Bible in the Original Geek" (March 2014) discusses the many ways new technology "will change the way you think about Scripture."  We are able to data mine the Word for all sorts of insights.  We can even build our own translations without the need for knowledge of the original languages, or for those who have such knowledge.

Hopefully this is getting more people into the Bible and helping people to understand and gain insight.  And those who want to go deeper - scholars, preachers and seminarians - can do so more quickly and with greater ease.

I feel like I'm John Henry racing the steam drill!  (If you don't know who he is, you can Google him.)

I feel, however, that my techie friends may be missing out on a few things.  One thing is familiarity, not only with the Bible, but with books in general.  When I read a book - any book - I get intimate with it; I feel it; I smell it; I break it in by cracking its back in multiple places; I mark its pages; I flip back and forth; I write my thoughts, questions and disagreements in the margins.  I suppose one can do some, maybe most of these things with a book on a Nook, a Kindle or an iPad - but it seems to me that that would be like making love to a robot.

My Bible is more than data to be mined.  It's an old friend.  It's a letter from my Lover.  It's a story I'm familiar with.  It's a reminder of my past and present spiritual walk.  It saddens me to think that the very technology that can help us gain greater knowledge is depended on by many to give them greater understanding and wisdom.  Perhaps it can.  But these only can come through familiarity.

So if I may sermonize:  Read your Bible; don't just mine it for information.  Get familiar with the Book and its authors - both the human and the Divine.  Let its "data" penetrate your thinking, whether this comes about through electronic media or through paper and ink.  And let it penetrate your life and actions.

2 comments:

Canadian Atheist said...

I have electronic copies of the bible, but I like my hard copy better. My hard copy has a leather cover and was given to me by my Nan. We used to go to church together on Sundays. It has a hand written message from her inside the cover. I use the electronic copies for convenience when I'm out and about or want to look something up really fast.

It seems an atheist agrees with you on this matter, Bill. :)

Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt said...

I love how fast I can look up verses online -- the ones I've heard but don't know their exact location -- and for reading LOTS of versions of particular passages.

But I LOVE my old Bible you & mom gave me when I was in high school. When it started wearing out I tried a replacement Bible but I just didn't like it. In my old Bible I can find things just by flipping and there are crayon marks in it from my son and the words y'all wrote on the fly leaf.

I prefer reading books in paperback form becuz of the whole physical relationship with them. And if I'm studying I can write all over them.