A Message for All Ages: “The Codex”

By the second century, the codex was the preferred format for preserving and transporting the written word among Christians evangelists and scholars, and it is thought that the spread of Christianity both drove, and was facilitated by, the adoption of the codex in place of scrolls.

codex sinaiticus St Catherine's
The Codex Siniaticus is the oldest known complete text of the Bible, from ca. 350 AD. This copy was discovered in 1844 at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (hence its name).

A short history of the codex and why it was so important to the development and spread of Christianity.  Portions of this outline were presented in an informal “Message for All Ages” at ARK Community Church in Dalton, MA; Feb 1, 2016.

Prior to the first century CE (or so), nearly all written documents were in the form of single sheets or scrolls.

Because of the difficulty of unrolling scrolls to find particular passages and then having to roll them up again, longer books were often broken up into multiple scrolls. You can see this even today in the segmentation of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Hebrew Scriptures, both of which were originally single continuous texts.

And, because of the difficulty of managing and storing scrolls, very short books were often collated together into a single scroll.  For instance, the 12 minor Hebrew prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Job, Malachi, etc.), were often kept together in one or two scrolls.

The word “Codex” is from the Latin word for “wood” or “block” and is the technical term for a folio of pages stitched together.  In other words, a book.  The codex was developed by the Romans shortly before the time of Christ, Julius Ceasar may have been the first prominent Roman to use them.

Continue reading “A Message for All Ages: “The Codex””

Religious Illiteracy – Good or Bad?

osterhasen-0177I read an article on CNN a couple of years ago that quoted a social studies teacher who said that each year he asks his students “What is Easter about?”  He said they invariably bring up the Easter Bunny but never mention the significance of the holiday to Christianity.

I’ve also noted a tendency among some Churches and Christian leaders in recent years to “circle the wagons” and retreat into Orthodoxy or relatively conservative statements of doctrine.  This seems to be a reaction to the declining influence of organized Christianity in American society as a whole, and may also reflect a perception that more conservative, evangelical Christian groups are growing while “mainstream” Protestant denominations (and Catholicism) are on the decline.

I am convinced that by retreating into more orthodox expressions of the Christian faith, progressive Christians are abandoning the greatest advantage they have in the face of an increasingly secular society, which is their ability to engage with others in ways they can easily understand.   That Vermont teacher’s observation that young people are not able to identify Easter’s origins in the Christian Tradition (still less the underlying Judaic traditions), means they have no basis for comprehending words like “Christ”, “Jesus” or “Salvation”.  Such concepts mean nothing to them.  Therefore, using such terminology to try and reach them is fruitless.

Also, the only impression of Christianity many people have nowadays comes from news articles about the hate-filled activism of Westborough Baptist Church, and the anti-intellectualism, racism, misogynistic attitudes and/or homophobia of various religious groups and personalities.  So, if we use the same words such people use, even though the message itself is far different, we, as progressive Christians, are being lumped together with them in the public mind.  We are therefore perceived as out of touch and irrelevant to modern realities and concerns.  (And, as any politician will tell you, perception always trumps truth!)

Continue reading “Religious Illiteracy – Good or Bad?”