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"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor." Proverbs 21:21 NRSV

In March history notices reminded us of the anniversary of the first book to ever be printed. What was that book?

Most people know that book was the Bible. Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450s, and that first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany.

Gutenberg's Bibles were surprisingly beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colorfully hand-illuminated. The invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This was essential to the success of the Reformation.

By introducing printing with moveable metal type to Western Europe, Johann Gutenberg revolutionized books, and, in fact, the very nature of communication.

Readable text, once scarce and complicated to produce, was now easily created in multiples that were readily distributed. Out of the explosion of text enabled by moveable type came the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. The Bible, too, became available to even the poor and thus was the most important document of the time.

Gutenberg's Bible contained 1,286 pages holding 42 lines of text. Of the approximately 180 copies printed, less than 50 survive today. In the 50 years that followed the Gutenberg Bible, hundreds of presses emerged across Europe, printing millions of books. Of these, the Bible was principal - by 1500 there were well over 80 editions printed in Western Europe.

The Bible has never gone out of production since the Gutenberg printing.

In June 1930, Congress authorized the purchase of 3,000 15th century books owned by Otto H. Vollbehr, including a perfect three-volume vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

Would be that our nation's leaders would read a copy of "the book that changed the world." In fact, how's your reading of that important book going?

In a couple of weeks, my nephew and I leave to go to a part of the world where for years the old Soviet Union blocked the most printed book from being distributed.

Political unrest still challenges the work of God in the Republic of Georgia, but just as the people of the 15th century were eager to receive a copy of the newly-printed Bible so many in Georgia are eager to learn of God's love for them.

Many people in "control" made the distribution of the Bible a very dangerous business in the 15th and 15th centuries, some being burned at the stake, but that did not stop the work of printing Bibles.

And it should not stop the work of taking the good news of Christ Jesus to the peoples of the world today. God enables each of His servants to "go" and share the witness of Christ, even through danger.

In fact, here is God's encouraging word to us: "... You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of [the world], 'Behold your God!'" (Isaiah 40:9).

Church, Pages 2 on 08/26/2009

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