An exhibition of Bibles and biblical manuscripts offers the chance to learn more of the Bible’s history by directly observing its tangible textual traces. APU’s 2010 exhibition, Treasures of the Bible: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond, will provide such an opportunity.
In this exhibition, the textual treasures will be displayed according to a sequence of five overlapping historical phases: the Written Word, the Inspired Word, the Translated Word, the Printed Word, and the Word in the New World.
The Written Word
The act of inscribing spoken words enhanced their permanence through transmission from generation to generation. Ancient communities used the powerful technology of writing to preserve their most important cultural traditions. The exhibition will begin with ancient pictograph and cuneiform tablets that reflect the earliest emergence of the written word in human culture and the role it played in early societies.
The Inspired Word
Jews and Christians received their sacred books as bearing the authority of divine inspiration. The second section of the exhibition will feature examples of the earliest manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, that were copied not simply because they were important texts, but because they were divinely inspired texts, or, in a word, Scripture.
The Translated Word
Because Jews and Christians often found themselves in multilingual societies, the need arose for translation of their sacred texts. Translated Scripture has played a uniquely decisive role in the history of Christianity even to the present day. The exhibition will include representative manuscripts of the translated Word, such as the Latin Vulgate, prior to the arrival of the printing press.
The Printed Word
Printing technology exponentially accelerated the dissemination of information at a time of seismic changes in European society. The printed Bible helped transform the religious landscape of the emerging modern European world. This section will present examples of some of the most influential Bibles ever produced in the West, like Martin Luther’s German translation, with particular attention to the English vernacular tradition, such as William Tyndale’s New Testament and the first printings of the King James Version.
The Word in the New World
The Word in the New World section of the exhibition will embrace all the preceding phases of the Bible’s history, displaying many of the first Bibles printed on American soil. Other Bibles will be included that reflect Christian faith born from understanding Scripture in a variety of translations and media.
In keeping with its Christian heritage, Azusa Pacific University maintains the conviction that Scripture is vitally relevant to the people of God in America and everywhere in the world. An exhibition of tangible biblical treasures offers an opportunity to celebrate Scripture in its fascinating history as a textual object. Beyond that, however, the items on display speak also of the countless lives that have been shaped by the singing, praying, teaching, preaching, and meditation of Scripture since the days of the faithful Dead Sea Scrolls scribes. We might consider that these lives, nurtured by Scripture, constitute the greatest, albeit intangible, treasures of the Bible.
William Yarchin, Ph.D., is the dean’s endowed professor in biblical studies. firstname.lastname@example.org