Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 27, 1964
NUMBER 42, PAGE 9,13b

New Book Gives History Of The Bible

(Editor's note: We were sent the following article by a reader in Panama City, Florida. We think it of sufficient interest to pass it on to our readers. The anonymous Associated Press writer who reviewed the book gives an excellent brief view of its contents. The book sells for $6.95, and may be purchased from the Gospel Guardian Company. It gives a thrilling story of how this greatest of all books has come through fire and blood and resisted every effort of the most diabolical schemes of men to destroy it. The unbeliever can only marvel in awe at the indestructibility of this volume; the faithful see here the providential hand of God!)

NEW YORK — Stores plagued with thefts of Bibles by those who steal with the intention of selling them, might take a hint from the Middle Ages when Bibles were so expensive they were chained to a wall or shelf in churches and monasteries to defeat the light-fingered. This is one of the old customs described in the new book, "6,000 Years of the Bible," by G. S. Wegener, just published by Harper and Row.

Each book was secured by a strong chain running through the spine, with the end of the chain attached to an iron bar. Even in a will left by the Chancellor York in 1378, he directed his Bibles and prayer books to be given to churches at Newcastle, "there to be chained up so that all men may use them." To this day, a small library of chained books may be seen in the church of All Saints in Hereford and elsewhere in Britain, the author reports.

The 60 centuries of anecdotes and history covered by "6,000 Years of the Bible" begin with ancient civilizations which "nourished the traditions, the stories, and the songs, that eventually became Holy Writ." The opening chapters recount experiences of the archaeologists in discovering ancient cities "which form the vivid background against which the story of the Bible unfolds."

One of the most newsworthy excavations described by Wegener was the uncovering of the actual site of the Biblical flood of 4000 B.C. This was located near the Persian Gulf, by the British archaeologist, Leonard Woolley, in 1929. Woolley had dug up the city of Ur of the Chaldees, then beneath that had found rubble from buildings of a still earlier city.

Digging even further he found still another layer of history in the pure clean clay deposited by waters. It was then he electrified the civilized world with the message, "We have found the Flood!" Digging through the ten feet of clay, he uncovered the human settlement inundated by the Biblical flood, which was of a Stone Age era.

Insight is given into the lives of the early people, such as in the following passage:

"The Sumerians had a passion for order: disorderliness, in whatever sphere, offended their nature. No sooner had they established themselves in their cities than they set about creating order. They divided the year into 12 months, the day into 12 hours, and the hour into 60 minutes.

"They split up the circle into 360 degrees, laid down rules for measurement and weight, and plotted the course of the stars. It was good calculation, and it is still valid after 5,006 years."

Sweeping down the centuries, "6,000 Years of the Bible" traces the history of the beginning of reading and writings, the rise and fall of civilizations, the development of the Bible and the great excitement it engendered in whole masses of people. The histories of various translations are given, some of which were attended by fanatical persecutions.

So scarce and so highly valued were Bibles before the invention of printing machines, that even those printed with wood blocks in the Middle Ages could be purchased only by the comparatively wealthy. As for hand-written manuscripts, they were so expensive that only a nobleman could buy one, or a whole community which chipped in for joint ownership.

Some idea of the value may be gained from a transaction reported by a group of nuns in Germany in 1309. They purchased 90 acres of land, two farmhouses, a wood, and a whole farm with two acres of woodland, for less than one-third the amount of silver they had been paid for selling only one Bible.

Because of the scarcity of Bibles and the religious fervor of the monks for copying them, efficiency experts arose in some monasteries and worked out a system for mass production on a small scale.

"Where there were more scribes than documents for them to copy, one monk dictated the text to 10 or 20 others, so that, by a kind of mass production, several copies of the Bible, or portions of it, could be made at the same time," Wegener writes.

"This practice had the disadvantage of allowing more mistakes to creep in than when a monk could take his own time with his copying, and as these copies were sometimes used as models for others a chain-reaction of unreliability was set up."

The most famous error reported by Wegener, however, occurred after the invention of the printing machine and was thought to be sabotage on the part of a disgruntled employee. This was in England in 1631. It became known as the "Wicked Bible," because the Seventh Commandment read, "Thou shalt commit adultery." Every copy that could be located was called in and burned, and the King's Printer was ruined, as he had to bear the expense.

Women were forbidden to read the Bible in 1543 by a law authorized by stalwart King Henry VIII. This created burning resentment, according to Wegener. The book was forbidden also to apprentices and artificers. Only "the gentry" could read the Bible "in private." This law prevailed only a few years, until the king died in 1547.

"6,000 Years of the Bible" concludes with the quest of modern scholars to unearth carefully hidden or carelessly misplaced documents pertaining to Biblical times.

Inventions of science which have contributed to the knowledge of the Bible also are discussed. These include the Carbon 14 Test, which unmasks forgeries by determining the age of a document, and the use of infra-red photography which can photograph words which were once written but which are no longer visible to the human eye because they were erased by frugal monks who wanted to re-use the parchment for personal writings.

For even though the writing has been erased, it still exists and throws back a slightly different light which the eye cannot see but which the infra-red photography can capture and record with the greatest exactitude as legible letters.