Hebrews buried scriptures that were worn out

What does one do with old Bibles’ Here in the church a couple of weeks ago I ran across a couple of old, tattered Bibles. The covers were torn and worn out, pages were loose or missing and they were no longer usable. So the question presents itself, ‘What does one do with old Bibles’ The Scriptures used in Jesus day, the Hebrew Bible, were scrolls of writings that we now call the Old Testament. They wore out just like our Bibles do, so the ancient Jews had the same problem for which they devised an ingenious answer. They buried them. The words of Scripture were viewed then as having an existence of their own. In ancient Israel, Scripture was always considered a spoken revelation. The words were God’s own. The words represented the living God himself and in themselves were living, even after they were written down. The New Testament also teaches that the word has existence, that it is ‘living and active.’ Therefore, Bibles were to be buried like people were, in sacred and consecrated ground. However, until enough worn-out religious material accumulated for a burial, synagogues had temporary storage places attached to them called ‘genizahs.’ Three very old genizahs discovered in the last few years have been the source of rather spectacular biblical finds. Supposedly useless manuscripts and texts, hidden and forgotten, have revealed much about the Bible and its writers. One such is the Cairo genizah in which was discovered the Zadokite Fragment. Many scholars call it the ‘first’ Dead Sea Scroll, although it was found in an old Cairo synagogue and not in a cave. Indeed, it was discovered 50 years before the spectacular discovery of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 in Israel. The Zadokite Fragment spoke of the Essenes, the people who produced and then hid the scrolls in the caves around Qumran before the community was discovered. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd boy made the actual discovery of parchment scrolls and other manuscript scraps in a series of caves near Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. While some of the scrolls were priceless complete manuscripts, others were fragments and some were evidently worn out. The Essences may have hid both their good scrolls and those from their genizahs at the approach of the Roman army. Also, in the Dead Sea area and in this same period of history, the nation of Israel ceased to exist when Flavius Silva’s 10th Legion stormed the fortress of Masada. During archaeological work there in the 1960s a small synagogue was discovered with a genizah. In it were parts of the Scriptures used by the doomed Essenes and Zealots. Finally, in 1977, while repairing a wall at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai, workers broke through into a long forgotten room in which were stored boxes full of ancient scrolls and books. Among the finds were several ‘missing’ pages from the book of Genesis from the ‘Codex Sinaiticus,’ one of the oldest and most valuable Bible manuscripts in existence. In this long forgotten genizah a few discarded, tattered pages provided priceless gifts to scholars and the church. How grateful we should be that the ancients never threw away Bibles. How marvelous that somebody way back then thought up the ideas of genizahs. How marvelous that some forgetful saints never got around to burying the word. How marvelous that God chose this as one way to preserve His word. Would that every church today had its genizah! Would that every church today had believers who wore out Bibles by actually reading them like the ancients did! Have you personally ever worn out a Bible’ How many Bibles do you own that scarcely have been opened’ If your church had a genizah, would there be anything in it to be discovered by future generations’ Come to think of it, tattered Bibles are not a problem but a blessing. Surely every church ought to have its own genizah full of worn out Bibles to point to with pride.

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