Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Faith Works 3-31-07
Jeff Gill

Do You Bury a Bible?

Beyond the hype, the story of the so-called Jesus family tomb has some interesting sidelights worth checking out.

One is the website, which has a great interactive feature on the Land of Jesus, even if I don’t think much of the “Tomb of Jesus,” at

The consensus of scholars, liberal and conservative, is that there wasn’t much “there” there in the story. My own lack of interest was rooted in remembering when the tomb first turned up, over a decade ago. I recall reading a few stories that pointed out the interesting cluster of names, confirming the everyday-ness of New Testament names, and mostly about the controversy over how the site should be stabilized, what with an apartment complex going up over the top of it.

What I never heard about, until the recent TV program, was what they did after the ossuaries were given to the governmental Antiquity Authority, and the bones given to Orthodox Jewish leaders for reburial. What about the tomb?

Well, as most of us know by know, they built structural walls around the area, capped the whole deal in concrete, and left an obscure hatch. After the series of towers went up, kids did what kids do, which was figure out how to break the lock and get in, so the hatch was replaced with a welded steel lid.

As for the now vacant tomb, the religious authorities did a very sensible thing, given the practices of Judaism.

They turned it into a genizah.

Genizahs aren’t part of Christianity, so I suspect most Licking Countians haven’t heard of them, unless they’ve done some serious Biblical studies, and even then they may have missed what a genizah was in the footnotes – just as you could have missed the re-purposed genizah even if you watched the “Lost Tomb” program.

In Jewish (and Islamic) practice, any text that includes the name of the Lord must be treated with particular respect. Mostly, this would refer to Torah scrolls, but in much of the ancient world contracts and other official document would include an invocation of the Divine Name, so they would come under this concern as well.

What do you do with an old scroll or document, worn almost to illegibility, or simply no longer of use? The idea was that they would receive a “proper burial” like any other valued member of the community of faith. You would set them aside for a term, usually seven years, and then take up the volumes and pages and texts and box them and bury them.

The Talpiot tomb, whoever really was first buried there, was full of old scrolls and books when the TV crew crawled in. The producers clearly wanted to move past this point and not get bogged down, but that’s what had been done with this rock-cut space now that all the human remains had been removed. Jerusalem genizahs (genizot for all you Hebrew scholars) had been emptied into Talpiot before the tomb was re-sealed.

Personally, I find this interesting because . . . well, look at it this way. The Barna Group says, based on data, that the average American house has five Bibles in it. If you count Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, and Spanish texts of scripture, I’m carrying more than my fair share: maybe 40 (lots of different translations, OK?).

Some of those I have because as more people have more Bibles, pastors more and more are getting asked by parishioners, especially after Great-Aunt Hattie dies or some such, “what’s the right thing to do with these very old, falling apart Bibles?”
It’s one thing to hold onto the big Family Bible with clippings inserted between testaments and a marriage and baptism list for the late 1800’s in the back. But we have more and more Bibles laying about, and still a desire to honor the word, and the Word, by how we handle, care for, and ultimately dispose of these texts.

Do we need a tradition of a Christian genizah? Church librarians are already starting to smile sadly and shake their heads, let alone clergy. Many of us have these in our basements already, not wanting to say “just throw it out,” but knowing that there is a steadily growing number of broken binding, crumbling page, non-reuseable Bibles slowly arcing their way towards us. The American Legion and the Boy Scouts often hold very moving “flag retirement” ceremonies at Memorial Day around the area, respectfully burning the tattered scraps. What of our Bibles?

I’ve already heard tales of boxes of old Bibles showing up on church doorsteps, like a child left at the orphanage. Truth is, folks, that just bumps the problem along; do we pulp them reverently, and use the recycled cellulose for the rosebushes by the sanctuary? Do we put them in a pine box and have a ceremony the Sunday after Easter each year? I’m seriously interested in your ideas.

You can tell them to me by email, or in person next Sunday at the Midland Theater, where the Newark Community Sunrise Service starts at 6:30 am. I’ll preach, I’ll shake hands after, but I won’t take your unwanted Bibles…

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at

Monday, March 26, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 4-1-07
Jeff Gill

Excitement With Four Corners

Clint Bowyer should have a huge fan base and much more attention than he gets, in my ignorant opinion.

Am I missing some dark secret in his past, or is it because the driver of the “07” car is sponsored by an adult beverage (which, by the by, I don’t drink myself), or do we just need more pieces written on the poor man?

NASCAR has a driver who, a few weeks ago, at their premiere raceway – Daytona, fer Pity’s sake – crossed the finish line a) upside down, b) backwards, c) on fire. The fact that he was a top ten finisher is just gravy on them biscuits.

Upside down, backwards, on fire: is this not the glory that is NASCAR, in a handy carry-home pack? I find myself checking each week for how 07 is doing in his black Chevy, but apparently frontwards, greasy side down, wheels turning isn’t as good for him as the groove he found at Daytona.

Still, I’d think he could coast on that one finish for a very long time. Cheer for Clint, wouldya?

Maybe we’ll even get to see him race here in Licking County someday soon.

You see, what I think would be ideal for all concerned is this – ever since the NHRA moved their focus away from National Trail Raceway, down by Luray on US 40, the drag racing has continued, but what if they changed formats?

Next door is a small airstrip, paralleling the dragstrip. What if NASCAR came in, bought both, and added short straights north and south, banked ‘em some turns at the corners, and add an east grandstand to match what National Trail already has up?

Call it NASCAR Trail Raceway. You have an area between Hebron and Kirkersville that already is used to huge influxes of traffic a bunch of times a year, over half the track built already, and access to the Columbus media market and a short hop to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh. Throw in some Louisville folk who have sobered up after the Kentucky Derby in May, and you’d have a Midwest crowd hungry for live NASCAR action (although I hear they’re talking about switching from dirt to asphalt and converting Churchill Downs to NASCAR, so we’d better get hopping).

Why have all our local fans drive to Bristol and Charlotte and eastern Pennsylvania for their closest racing fix when we could draw those tourists right here to central Ohio? Between football season and basketball season for the Buckeyes, there’s room in our hearts for another sport, even with the Blue Jackets playing hockey until June.

There’s always time to sell more hotdogs, nights in hotels, shopping in local stores (like the new Hebron NASCAR Experience three story mini-mall), and the fan foam finger business could really take off. People may not love a down-wind ethanol refinery, but who wouldn’t want a race venue nearby? Especially any auto parts or RV repair businesses.

Yes, there’s a little thing called the Brickyard nearby, but no one really thinks that’s going to catch on. Indy is open wheel and really should stick to what they know, and leave the bumpin’ and runnin’ to the stock cars that can take it.

NASCAR Trails. What do you think, Licking County? Can we make this happen? I want to see Clint cross the line in front of the tower off the old National Road, upside down, backwards, and on fire!

Oh, and Happy April 1 everybody . . .

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at