Posted by: Ascentury | Thursday, 22 January 2009

The house of seven Bibles

Ours is a house of seven Bibles.

The first is a paperback English volume I acquired from the temple bookstore in São Paulo. It’s in reasonably good shape for surviving a mission. I read the Bible for the first time cover-to-cover in it, and marked the striking phrases I’d never encountered before: “I the Lord, the first and with the last; I am he” (Isaiah 41:4); “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13); “mountains of brass” (Zechariah 6:1); “the colour of the terrible crystal” (Ezekiel 1:22); “certain lewd fellows of the baser sort” (Acts 17:5). There’s an excitement in reading through it, as the thin paper and my bold lines combine to telegraph pages ahead the presence of a phrase I thought beautiful. There are no tabs, and so Post-its mark the major divisions of note. I colored the footnote IEs and HEBs and GRs and TGs and JSTs in the first six books of the Old Testament and the much of the New Testament. I discovered my abiding love for the Bible in these pages.

The second is my Portuguese mission bible, version João Ferreira de Almeida, Atualizado. It’s pages are warped and water-stained, testament to long and carefree utility. Long passages are color-coded to the old discussions and underlined in various gel-pen colors (silver was the sixth discussion!). It was the only Bible I couldn’t locate to hold again today, which is a shame because next time I read the Bible it will be this one.

The third is a Japanese New Testament I found in a used book store in Brazil, probably Liberdade in São Paulo. The cover is dissolving, and the golden Japanese letters stamped into the spine are fading. A chi-rho encircled with olive leafs adorns the back cover–which is really the front cover. One particular charm is the red edging on the pages. I “read” the first two pages of Matthew with the help of a dictionary and another Bible, carefully marking each word by colors coded to the part of speech.

The fourth is a Jehovah’s Witness Greek-English interlinear study New Testament, also from a Paulistano bookstore. The pompous and awkward New World Translation in the narrow right-hand column is the modern-language translation of the literal interlinear text of the left, Westcott-Hort Greek. The introduction contains such gems as, “No uninspired translator or committee of translators can claim any direct command from the most High God to engage in translating the divine Word into another language,” which strikes me as almost Muslim in its commitment to the original.

The fifth is a 1944 Inspired Version, which I completed about a month ago for the first time. The poorly-bound cover is almost ripped free of the text. I found it for ten dollars in the used-book section of the BYU Bookstore a few years ago immediately after taking Robert L. Millet’s JST course. Someone had marked the different passages in the beginning of Matthew, an aborted project from decades ago.

The sixth is my own “working” scriptures–bound in stiff blue leather with silver edging. Although I’ve had it for three years, I’ve never quite adjusted to it. I don’t trust the way it folds the cover page in even though I always straighten it out. It was a wedding present from my dear wife. I’ve marked it cautiously, with a few side notes, but I feel that the margins are too small for any really meaty comments or more than two cross-references.

The seventh, my favorite of all, is my wife’s Bible. It has warm green leather and golden gilt. As my Bible’s cover never softened, I really enjoying holding hers.

I miss the eighth, in some ways. My eight-year-old Bible, as it were, was full of multicolored passages and torn pages. I never used it anymore, so I disposed of it when moving to Illinois. Sometimes, though, I miss the whimsical exuberance of the six boxes of color around THE BOOK OF JUDGES and the psychedelic swirls from my teenage Sunday School classes.

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