Old Jonathan Edwards wrote, “It has all along been God’s manner to open new scenes, and to bring forth to view things new and wonderful.” These scenes are the narrative method of the Bible, which assumes a steady march of history, the continuous unfolding of significant event, from the primordial quarrel of two brothers in a field to supper with a stranger at Emmaus. There is a cosmic irony in the veil of insignificance that obscures the new and wonderful. Moments of the highest import pass among people who are so marginal that conventional history would not have noticed them: aliens, the enslaved, people themselves utterly unaware that their lives would have consequence. The great assumption of literary realism is that ordinary lives are invested with a kind of significance that justifies, or requires, its endless iterations of the commonplace, including, of course, crimes and passions and defeats, however minor these might seem in the world’s eyes. This assumption is by no means inevitable. Most cultures have written about demigods and kings and heroes. Whatever the deeper reasons for the realist fascination with the ordinary, it is generous even when it is cruel, simply in the fact of looking as directly as it can at people as they are and insisting that insensitivity or banality matters. The Old Testament prophets did this, too.
The Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest extant copy of the Bible, has been digitized by the Codex Sinaiticus Project, and can now be viewed online here. The manuscript contains the entire New Testament, and most of the Old Testament, all in Greek (the original language of the New Testament). The physical manuscript is divided unequally among four locations in Britain, Germany, Russia, and Egypt, so the online version marks the first time the Codex can be viewed in its entirety in 100 years, when the first part was taken from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.
The Rosetta Project Language Archive includes a Greek Septuagint translation of the first three chapters of Genesis. This landmark Greek translation holds great historical significance, since it was the preferred translation of most Early Christian writers, including Paul, and is the text quoted throughout the New Testament.
When the kings come marching in, then, they bring the best of their nations—even the cultural goods that had been deployed against God and his people. The final vision of the City is one filled, not just with God’s glory and presence, not just with his own stunningly beautiful architectural designs, not just with redeemed persons from every cultural background—but with redeemed human culture too.
—Richard Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem, p.24
The possession of sacred Scriptures made of [Christians] a potentially worldwide “textual community.” The reader should meditate (as I have often done) on the implications of those humble fragments which show the same book of the Psalms being copied out, at the same time, as a writing exercise by Christian children, both in Panjikent near Samarkand and in northern Ireland. The basic modules of Christianity, also, were remarkably stable and easy to transfer—a bishop, a clergy, a congregation . . . and a place in which to worship. Such a basic structure could be subjected to many local variations, but, in one form or another, it travelled well. It formed a basic “cell,” which could be transferred to any region of the known world. Above all, Christians worshipped a God who, in many of his aspects, was above space and time. God and his saints could always be thought of as fully “present” to the believer, wherever he or she happened to be. In God’s high world, there was no distinction between “center” and “periphery.” In the words of the modern inhabitants of Joazeira, a cult site perched in a remote corner of northwest Brazil, Christian believers could be sure that, even if they lived at the notional end of the world . . . they had “Heaven above their heads and Hell below their feet.”