Oversized, leatherbound, aesthetically intimidating, and gorgeous: family Bibles have long served double duty as a family’s Bible and as a warehouse of a family’s history. Because they were designed to withstand the abuse of generations, they were a natural place to keep important documents and record genealogical data like births, deaths and marriages. It’s not uncommon to find well-conditioned family Bibles that are well over a century old. (See the search results for “family bible” on eBay, although it’s a bit sad to see them for sale rather than occupying a special spot on their family’s bookshelf.)
Contrast that longevity with the comparatively fledgling Google and online cloud storage services, where many of us store our important information today—Google’s only been around for about 11 years. I’ve owned six computers in the past twenty years; the most recent three haven’t even had a floppy disc drive, once considered the future of data storage. Technology will certainly continue to provide newer and better ways to store data, but for sheer durability, there’s something to be said about a physical object like a book.
If Christianity was an influence in your family’s history, chances are you have a family Bible floating around in an attic somewhere. My family did; I remember curiously picking ours off the shelf and flipping through it as a child. It was unwieldly compared to the softcover Bible I was using at the time and seemed antiquated and unusable.
There was a time, however, when a family Bible might have been a generation’s only connection with God’s Word outside of the church. It’s easy to forget that our era of the globally mass-produced book is still relatively recent. And the idea of acceessing an entire library of Bibles from a glowing box in your living room would have sounded crazy just one generation ago.
We live in a disposable society that prides itself on trivial replication of physical goods. I own few things that are more than 30 years old, let alone a book older than my great-great-great-great grandfather. To put it bluntly, we’re not a generation that understands the concept of heritage. (How many of us live on land that our father once owned?) But imagine the sense of heritage, history and familial connection one would feel opening the Bible in which your great-great-grandmother had written the date of her wedding.
Is there a family Bible in your household? Did you uncover it cleaning out an attic? Has it been in the family for generations, or did you buy one just recently? Do you use it for your Bible reading?
We’d like to hear your family Bible stories, so if you have fond memories or interesting facts about your family Bible, email us and tell us about it! Even better, send us a picture of your family Bible—if we get enough, we’ll post some of our favorites on the blog.
The above image of a family Bible is by Flickr user BunnyGoth.