Bible Disposal. (M.E.M.O)

By Marty, Martin E. | The Christian Century, March 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bible Disposal. (M.E.M.O)


Marty, Martin E., The Christian Century


SUBSCRIBER Sue R. Wilcox of Denver asked this columnist: "What do you do respectfully with old worn-out Bibles?" I respect her respect for the Bible and sympathize with her problem. So many new editions of the Bible are published, advertised, sold, sometimes opened and even read each year that some day the piles of old worn-out Bibles will be as high as the forests from whose trees they derived.

Rules about disposing of the Qur'an and the Torah scrolls are distinct and fierce. But since we Christians have done less stipulating, it is time to brainstorm. (I will welcome and perhaps publish suggestions from readers.) Search the web for "disposal" and you will find clear suggestions for disposing of that really sacred object, the U.S. flag--e.g., have the American Legion burn it in a formal ceremony--but there is little on Bible disposal.

A friend in "waste management" once told me that we do high-tech versions today of what the ancients did with waste: we burn what we can, bury what we can't, or we toss it all into the river. I have not figured out the river-toss for Bibles, so my advice is, burn them.

People often did. Several years ago I wrote a script on the history of Bible translation for the American Bible Society. I've seen a rough cut of the film, but don't think it's been released. Someone wondered how such a subject could be telegenic. I said, "Visualize flames." Historically, enemies burned either the translators or the translations. But even slightly liberal Christians are nervous about turning to book burning. So? Have someone else do it.

That's easy if the worn-out Bible is a Revised Standard Version, dating from any time after September 30, 1952. (That's old by now!) Look up newspapers of the era and you will find regular accounts of fundamentalists burning copies of what they called "Stalin's Bible. …

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