Note: I began this piece in the fall, hoping to finish it before Christmas. Alas, I could not. I just couldn't stay interested in it. For some reason I remembered it last week and pulled it out. What can I say? My muse knows no seasons.
This is a facsimile of a section of the Codex Bezae, an important New Testament manuscript that dates to the 5th or 6th century. It was created using a font that approximates the original style. Photographs of Codex Bezae are not permitted.
Bezae was written on pages of vellum. Being a codex, it was bound like the books of our day, between two covers with writing on both sides of the pages. The manuscript contains the Gospels, Acts, and a small piece of 3rd John. It is the only extant Greek version of the Western family of New Testament texts, so its value to scholars is immeasurable. It has resided in the University of Cambridge library since 1581.
I’ve been a part of the Christian Church all of my life. I’ve watched how things work within the faith, and I’ve been particularly fascinated by the ways we Christians use and abuse the New Testament.
The New Testament - the uniquely Christian part of the Bible - is a messy collection of books and letters. No one can be absolutely sure what parts are important and what parts are the cultural containers that hold the important parts. In First Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to drink wine regularly to help with his stomach problems. It seems unlikely that this should be understood as a universal command for all Christians throughout the centuries. And I’m not aware of any church that treats that passage in such a way.
Not that a glass of wine at night isn’t a splendid idea and something I might like to suggest for some of my more “intense” brothers and sisters.
So from the start, we have a collection of documents that is unclear and can be difficult to interpret and understand. That’s a good thing to know before we go any further.
From what I’ve seen, only very serious Christians take the time to actually read the New Testament for themselves. This collection of sacred writings taxes scholars, so it is certainly a challenge for everyday people. We do the best we can, but no one can understand all of the New Testament. And even those who have read the whole thing will have forgotten most of it by the following Tuesday. The New Testament is too much to hold in your mind.