31,173 verses. 31,173 writers. 90 cities across America. 1 Word.
A few years ago, Zondervan hosted a remarkable event that spanned the country. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the New International Version, Zondervan sent a caravan to churches, schools, malls, post offices and more. My home state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, had two locations on this tour – Liberty University and my little church in Chesterfield.
This tour was an interactive history lesson on the transmission of the Bible. For millennia, the Bible wasn’t typed out, Xeroxed, or mechanically reproduced. It was written letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence. So the event got volunteers at each location to write out the entire Bible – letter by letter, word by word, verse by verse. Each person was given the next verse in order (no picking your verse in this process).
They lined up and wrote out their given verse. The result, a unique manuscript that was later copied and reproduced for those that desired a copy.
They lined up to write out their given verse. The result, a unique manuscript that was later copied and reproduced for those that desired a copy.
My verse was in Numbers.
This was a nerve racking experience that meant more than just putting ink to paper.
Biblical scribes took their job serious. One mistake and they started the page over. Once a page was done, they counted letters. If the number of letters didn’t match, they started the page over. If the middle letter didn’t match, yep, they started the page over.
It’s not like transmittal errors didn’t slip in. Great scholars have shown how this happens. Repetition of words or letters, skipping a word, flip flop of words (Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus), and more. But the key here is how serious the scribes took their job – especially Hebrew scribes.
So, I have a project of my own in the works. My church family will take this concept and we will write out the book of James – letter by letter, word by word, verse by verse. 108 verses. 108 people. 1 Word. In January, we will be working through James in our worship service.
My hopes is that this endeavor helps each person appreciate the labors, the passion, and the extent of everything that went into getting the Bible to us … and that the Bible we have on our phone, tablet, desk has a history we should never forget.
So today, open up your Bible, turn on the app, and read it.
Maybe even write out your favorite verse.