Digital Bibles


I read this article in USA Today about the increasing use of digital Bibles in church services.

Not too long ago, the sight of someone using an electronic device during a worship service might lead an observer to assume that person was not fully engaged. But not anymore. Reading the Bible used to mean reading a book, but increasingly, people are getting the Word on smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices.

So then, what will happen to the printed Bible? The last word has not been written on that, but experts speculate that its unchallenged reign is over.

These days I am more apt to take my Kindle to church than an actual printed Bible. One of the first e-books I bought for my Kindle was a Bible and I have always had one on whatever PDA or smart phone I have been using. I find the electronic format very useful since you can have a great many translations, as well as commentaries, dictionaries, and other resources all in one easy to carry package. There do seem to be a few drawbacks.

The Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, has at least 20 hardcover Bibles in the office of his church. He recently began using an iPad during Bible study, but sticks to a hardcover version in the pulpit. He doesn’t think many of his older members would appreciate him using his iPad.

“What if he’s up there preaching and the battery dies or something like that? I hope he has a real Bible next to him, so he can look up what he needs to look up,” said Isabella Howard, 62, of Detroit, a longtime member.

She wouldn’t trade her hardbound Bible for any e-version.

“I feel closer to God with this,” she said referring to her Bible. “I don’t have to plug up anything. All I have to do is open it up and read it.”

For others, there are more liturgical reasons to shun e-Bibles during worship.

A representative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said it would be impractical for a priest to use an e-reader during mass because the Holy Book is held high, carried down the aisle and placed for display on the altar as part of the opening of the service.

“It would be really strange to process an iPad down the aisle and place it on the altar,” said Dan McAfee, director of Christian Worship for the archdiocese.

“E-Bibles are great for personal study, but they can’t be used for liturgical books,” he said. “The Bible is a sacred book — a one of a kind — not just a file among many files in an iPad.”

I guess having a priest holding up an iPad during a Catholic mass would be a little like replacing the candles with little electric lights. You could do it, but the effect wouldn’t be quite the same. I would imagine that some of the more enthusiastic preachers who handle a Bible during sermons might be wary of dropping an expensive e-reader.

In my opinion it is the words in Scripture that are important and the physical medium through which we read those words is not very important, so I do not feel the sentimental attachment to the printed Bible, nor do I feel that I am missing anything even though the Bible I read is one file among many on my kindle. The Bible was probably one of the first books produced in codex form, as opposed to the scrolls of ancient times, and was the first book printed in the West. It is only proper that it is prominent among e-books.



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