Probably out West, the situation presented here not much of a problem in that churches buildings–and the Bibles therein, are quite new by New England standards. This is an article I wrote while serving one of my old New England Yankee, Congregational UCC churches. Because I have been away, I thought I would go “to the barrel” and share with you one of “Jarv’s gems from the past.”
Right across from where I sit in my office, stacked neatly taking up two plus rows is a bunch of old, old Bibles. They vary in size. Some are really quite big and there are several that are so small the print is barely readable. Some have numerous illustrations. Some of the religious art is OK; much of it is just dreadful, or at least nothing I would want to see framed hanging on my walls. There is also one set of commentaries. All in all, however, the one thing these old, old Bibles have in common is, that as old books they have absolutely no monetary value. They just kind of sit there taking up space serving at best as reminders of days gone by.
Somehow, however, throwing out used Bibles seems akin to burning the American flag. It seems to be something one just does not do. So giving them away seems to be the best option. And who better to be on the receiving end than the pastor. Sure enough, every once and awhile some one will say to me, “Wouldn’t you like to have this old, old Bible? It has been in my family for a long, long time.” Then out comes this humongous old, old Bible with a partial genealogy inside that is in decent shape (mostly because I can tell it has been hardly been used). By the way, one thing, old, old Bibles have in common, turns out to be a good reason people seldom read them–and that is, that most all of them are written in the old King James, hard to read, hard to understand, version… that is, unless you yourself are–old.
“What do you want me to do with it?” I respond.
“Well, we just thought you might like to have it and could make good use of it.” say with the hope I might take this enormous, not to mention heavy, volume off their hands.
I think about offering to dispose of it for them, after explaining why I have no use for it, and also that there are millions just like it–but then remembering my previous American flag correlation, I back out as gracefully as I can. Sometimes people don’t think to ask, but sneak down to the church steps in the dead of night with their old, old Bible in hand with a note attached saying something like, “This was grandma’s old, old Bible; she would have wanted it to have a good home.” (Which evidently wasn’t their house.)
There is only one thing that makes a Bible valuable, and that is if the famous person who owned it claims that his/her life was inspired by it. A signed volume with notes in the margin, indicating motivating passages by a President or other famous person might give an otherwise worthless volume some value, albeit still fairly meager.
Of course, it is always the contents of the Bible rather than the Bible itself that is valuable. Perhaps if they are displayed like they are in my office–right where I can see them, I will be reminded to be a witness to what can be read inside them.
By the way, right below the shelves that contain the old, old Bibles is one containing the Bible I received when I was in Sunday School signed by the Rev. Gibson I. Daniels–now over 50 years old… I wonder which relative I will leave it to…?