By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
On January 14, the preteen class and youth group (grades 5 – 12) will visit the new Museum of the Bible which opened in November. Their press release states:
The Museum of the Bible opens its doors to the public, unveiling the institution’s flagship, 430,000-square-foot museum building for the first time. …the innovative, global, educational institution boasts one of the largest privately-held collections of ancient biblical codices, scrolls and papyri along with thousands of other historic artifacts and exhibit items.
I’m so excited to take students and their parents because often we overlook the sacrifice and dedication that generations of scribes and believers have contributed to this important book.
I have studied the manuscript transmission process of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) more than that of the New Testament. Therefore, I can attest to the making of the Hebrew Bible with more details. Two facts I want to highlight: one, the invention of vocalization by the Masoretes and two, their meticulous procedure of copying texts. The Hebrew Bible was primarily written in Hebrew and some portions in Aramaic. Both being Semitic languages, they did not contain vocalization notes in their original forms. The Masoretes (Jewish scholars and scribes in 6th to 10th century CE) invented a new vocal notation system to standardize pronunciation and interpretation. Out of that movement, the Ben Asher family was noted for their precision and excellence. The present printed edition of the Hebrew Bible for scholars, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, is based on one of the manuscripts from the Ben Asher line. This family of scholars was so meticulous and pious, it had strict rules of copying. One of them is undergoing ritual washing after a scribe writes the letters ‘YWHW’ (the holy name of God). For example, in Deuteronomy 1 a scribe must undergo twenty-one ritual washings to finish the chapter! (I guess they didn’t have a copy and paste function!)
In our preteen class, we open the Bible and we read it as a group to come to an interpretation. We have open access to it because there have been generations of dedicated scholars, copyists, translators, and believers who gave sweat and tears in preserving and transmitting it for today’s generation. We are so fortunate to live close to this museum that is dedicated in presenting the Bible in its multiple facets.