Last weekend, two biblical scholar friends and I visited the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and spent time in an exhibit entitled “Shrunken Treasures: Miniaturization in Books and Art.” It features tiny books and objects from the museum’s permanent collection.
In case after case, we saw all things small. There were small mosaics, small sculptures, small shipping guides, but mostly small religious texts. Small Psalters. Small Qurans. And small Bibles.
Some of these minatures were functional, actually used by readers even before the days of bifocals. They allowed people to have words that were portable and private– pocket editions.
But many were clearly too small to be read. It’s hard to imagine how they were even produced. These texts weren’t reading material; they functioned atropaically–as amulets , talismans, good luck pieces. These Bibles were owned, touched, tucked away, treasured. But not read. The idea of the Bible mattered more than its content.
From my vantage point, that attitude toward the Bible is ubiquitous, even for folks whose Bibles are big. A lot of verbage gets thrown around about the Bible (its perfection, its authority, its goodness) that makes sense only if you don’t read it–or read it seriously. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t say something about the Bible that isn’t true about all of it. If you’re going to talk about the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice, then you should be prepared to explain why you don’t live your life by all of it.
I spend my energies trying to get people to spend less time spouting claims about the Bible and more time actually reading it, being honest about it, and valuing it for what it actually is.
The exhibit runs through Nov. 8, 2009.