Disaggregating the Bible
THE SOURCE: “Christianity and the Future of the Book” by Alan Jacobs, in The New Atlantis, Fall 2011.
The Koran calls Christians “People of the Book.” It’s an apt description. “There is an intimate connection between the Christian message, the Christian scriptures, and the codex,” argues Alan Jacobs, an English professor at Wheaton College. The codex—a bound, portable successor to the unwieldy scrolls on which Scripture was preserved for earlier Christians—spread a unified and organized version of the Word across the world. But what happens to Christianity if the book goes the way of the scroll?
It depends, says Jacobs. As a technology, the bound book has served Christians well. Early adherents were eager to convey that “the Church does not possess a series of “little books,” but, rather, one big book that encompasses both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. From the Christian perspective, Jesus’s life is foretold in the former and chronicled in the latter. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Jesus Christ,” Jacobs writes of the Bible’s message. Whether one is browsing Scripture on an iPad or thumbing through it the old-fashioned way, that message of unity endures. “Electronic reading devices like the Kindle, and even tablets like the iPad, preserve many of the essential features of the codex,” Jacobs says.
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