John 21.25: But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Word of Hope
This is National Library Week.
The word library derives from a latin word the roots of which mean the inner bark of a tree; presumably a writing surface. The word book comes from German and seems to derive from a work meaning beech tree; again presumably a source of writing material. The Greek word for book is biblios. This is not only the source the name Bible, but also means papyrus; from which we get paper; writing material to this day. Long works are often broken up into books. “A Tale of Two Cities” (3 books); “The Lord of the Rings”, (3 volumes,6 books), and of course the Bible (which in Christian terms has a varying number of books depending on denomination) are examples.
A library is a collection of books. We refer to the Bible in terms of its books. So it is fair to say Bible is a library all its own.
Taken in conjunction with the scripture from John, it is easy to realize that we are missing significant, unwritten events and actions in the life of Jesus, in what he did after his resurrection, and in the life of the early church. Our spiritual library is missing books.
We know there are writings that have not been placed into the canon of modern Christianity. The Gospel of Thomas in one such book which perhaps stands a chance of being accepted as a valid writing to add to the canon; but I doubt it will be. When Bishop John Spong visited COH some years ago I had a chance to ask him if he thought there were works that should be added to the canon of the Bible. His immediate response was “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.
But as well as what we might be missing, we need to think about what we have. The books of the Bible were not written with chapter and verse. That came later; much later. Taking a few short phrases out of their context can change the meaning. As an example, here is a longer quote fr John’s Gospel:
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
This passage, the last in the book of John happening after Jesus resurrection, gives a great deal of context to the short passage quoted above. We should pause to think about all the things Jesus did after his resurrection about which we have no book. We also know that Jesus, while perhaps not as physically present today as he
was in this passage, is still writing in the book of God’s creation. We know our library is still growing because God is still speaking.
Loving Creator, continue to speak to us through the words of ancient Christians, through modern sages, and through that of You which is within us. Speak so that we can understand and feel Your love so that we can pass that love on to others.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare