I am in possession of three Bibles. Four if you count The Book of Mormon, which I do not.
The first was sent to my mother by the State of California after her elderly cousin passed away while under their care. “Cousin Gloria” loved animals (elephants in particular) but couldn’t stand most people. She smoked unfiltered cigarettes and lived on a diet of cookies and soda. She was obese, diabetic and towards the end, violent. Mother tried, Gloria didn’t. And so when she stated her intention to leave all of her estate (including land in Hawaii) to the Elephant Assistance League, Mother threw up her hands in defeat.
This Bible was given to Cousin Gloria in 1935 by “Grandma” which would have been my great grandmother. It’s the smallest of the three bibles, only about the size of my hand. In Deuteronomy there’s a pressed leaf of some sort. I have no idea what, if any, significance it had to her.
In Job there are what remains of Tweedy, Cousin Gloria’s beloved parakeet who lived far beyond its normal life span.
The bookmark will forever be in Psalms Prayer of the Poet in Affliction.
There is a slip of paper in Ephesians that reads Ephesians 4:32 “Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
My mother’s Bible looks like it was put through the washing machine, which, knowing Mother, is probably true. It was given to her by Mrs. Rufus Cushinau in 1936, a woman I have never heard of. Inside of Psalms is the home schedule for the Reno Renegades which is a mystery as she is not a sports fan. I’ll have to ask her about it. There are few special passages marked, most notably Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Mother is not one wit sentimental. But of the three bibles, I like the illustrations in this one the best. Unfortunately they are all damaged.
Whoever Mrs. Cushinau was, she knew Mother. This is the only Bible to contain Cliff Notes.
My Bible was given to me by the Methodist Church which I went to sporadically growing up. It’s much larger that the others. About the size of the one Trump held the other day in his photo op. Being quite sentimental, my bible is jammed with things. A letter from my grandmother wishing me a Happy New Year and letting me know that, even though it was a Monday (her usual wash day) she would be postponing the wash because of cloudy skies.
There’s a birthday card from years ago, someone I sadly lost contact with and later found out was going through a very rough time.
Pictures of my children, memorials, postcards … it’s just stuffed. In this version, revised in 1952, Jesus is a hippie who apparently likes to sit under trees and chat with his followers.
And my parents wondered how the hippie movement ever came to be!
Like the Hippie Jesus, I prefer to seek solace in nature. I do not believe God wrote the Bible up in his office in the sky and then transmitted his “orders” to a council of “holy” men sitting in the desert. But it is a work of prose and poetry that has evolved over the centuries to reflect human experience and, to many people, it provides solace. Even to those who aren’t believers, it is a necessary reference to understand many of the great works of literature. To use the Bible as a symbol of one’s political power is worse than burning it.
34 thoughts on “What’s in your Bible?”
The Bible as an instrument of peace and solace — can’t wish that away. And wouldn’t want to.
I registered a domain 20 years ago: COTGO.org it stood for Church of the Great Outdoors. I still own it — if you’re interested… (I own the COTGO.com too. I was a domain baron way back when.)
That’s a great idea! I think the Bible can do great harm when taken literally by people who believe an all powerful and vindictive god wrote it. To me it is precious because so many artists have seized upon its stories and themes to create great art. Trump should have opened the book to Revelations. That would have been a photo op I would have paid money to see. It is odd to me how pictures of Jesus in the old Bibles show him outside and barefoot and yet his legacy has been co opted by mega churches and slick men in suits and diamonds demanding money. Scary times.
I only own one very small, very worn hand-held booklet of the Gospel of St. John. It was given to my paternal-maternal-maternal great grandmother on 11-01-1911. The cover of it is long gone but, the first page states that it was taken from the original Greek.
It is interesting to me how these old copies differ in introductions. One of the older bibles I have claims to have been translated from “ancient tongues.”
Do you collect bibles or have they just gathered with you like leaves?
Ha! With the exception of mine, inherited them.
I prefer the Hippie Jesus too. I’m not a believer, don’t go to church and don’t have a single Bible in the house, but I remember my literature teachers using it all the time.
Thanks B! I remember my father telling my brother to cut his hair and he would say “how about Jesus?” It was the beginning of the hypocrisy I grew up with.
What did your dad say?
Slapping him for being disrespectful and ordered him to get a haircut or else.
So I thought.
Yep its an amazing work but to give it any weight in living ones life is a trifle bizarre, like taking a 16th century recipe for goose soup and trying to make it as a remedy for multiple organ failure. I’m sure we have a bible somewhere…
Good analogy! I view them as works of literature but it interesting to look through the illustrations and their captions.
Trump knows no shame. He is a despicable human being.
I have two bibles; one that was given to me by my parents as a young girl, and one that I bought for myself many years ago. The first I carried to church, the second I opened and read. Inside my bible, are words of wisdom, comfort, hope, a promise of forgiveness, redemption and joy. I like knowing what’s inside. It distinguishes me from the impostors who hide behind it and pervert its meaning as a means to justify their actions.
I agree. If you use a book to justify any belief, you’d better have at least read it.
Sitting here high on Tylex CD, so I want to share my Bible story. When I was a kid, my father built a Bible playhouse. W
Lost my train of thought…
No problem Duke – I look forward to hearing your story when you’re feeling better.
I love your response to the imbecilic photo op the other day. Brilliant and moving counterpoint.
You’re right, to use the Bible as a prop is not the behavior of a true believer. But here we are, eh? I have many family Bibles and now I feel like I should peek in them to see what I might find, besides the written word of course.
Bibles can remind you of what was treasured by people who have passed – definitely a bittersweet experience.
I still have a white one given to me by my mother when I was 8 or 9 and a regular Sunday school attendee at the Union Church in Bogota.
What my parents didn’t know is that my friends told me I was going to hell because I was not Catholic. I quickly enrolled in my school’s lunchtime catechism class ensuring the priest and nun I had parental approval. More than 1/2 centruy later, I can still recite: “Ave Maria, madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.”
That’s a different kind of bible experience! I remember going to confession with my Catholic friends after they’d had impure thoughts. Sat with them through many a Hail Mary.
What a treasure trove! I love your bibles and your stories about them are so intriguing. I can imagine your aunt with her Oreos, her bird tweeting merrily in her cage, and your grandmother writing a note in the gray light of her kitchen. Wonderful prose, Jan!
Thanks Susie. Sometimes the nincompoop in the WH does something so evil I just have to say something although in general I would rather just crawl under a rock!
this was a really idea.
Dear Jan, I found this essay on your bible collection profound, and your words, as always, refreshing. Love the photos, too, and the descriptions you share. Really marvelous post.
Thanks Jet. I do love the illustrations in some of the older bibles though I haven’t cracked open a bible younger than 60 in quite a while!
Most people don’t realize how great the stories are even if you just look at the Bible as a plain book. King David’s problems with his sons predates King Arthur tales by roughly two thousand years I would estimate. And don’t get me started on Samson, the original Rambo, whose body count pales in comparison.
So true. You have to study it as a piece of literature and not the word of God (which many people have been told is somehow blasphemous. Such a shame.)
They’re missing out.