No, this announcement is not news of an amazing donation for evangelising our desperately needy nation, but is from an extraordinary Press Release from the British Library. They have successfully acquired the St Cuthbert Gospel, a miraculously well-preserved 7th century copy of St. John’s Gospel, which is “the oldest European book to survive fully intact and therefore one of the world’s most important books.”
The £9 million purchase price for the Gospel has come through the largest and most successful fundraising campaign in the British Library’s history, with a £4.5 million grant coming from Government funds and a further £4.5 million pounds from many other charities and private donors. The Library states that “this precious item will remain in public hands so that present and future generations can learn from it” and says that they “are now taking the first steps to increase public awareness and understanding of the Gospel.”
This remarkable seventh century book was only preserved so well, in its original red leather binding, because it was placed in the coffin of St.Cuthbert when he was buried in AD 698. The book was later discovered when the coffin was opened in 1104 for his reburial in Durham Cathedral.
Of one thing we can be certain – the book was only placed there because it was the most precious item that Cuthbert possessed – not because it was a valuable book, however, but because it contained treasure that is beyond earthly value.
As a book-lover, I am delighted that this extraordinary book has been preserved – but as a believer in the One we read of in the book, I wish the Government and other charities were as concerned to communicate to the nation the message of the Gospel as they have demonstrated that they are to preserve a copy of it!
I pray that the Library’s desire to “increase public awareness and understanding of the Gospel” will cause people to think – not just about the importance of the book as a physical object, but also about the importance of the content of the book. A digitised copy of the Gospel is now available on line for anyone to read – in Latin of course! But that can only be a good thing – for those who want to find out why this book was so important to St.Cuthbert will have to buy a Bible to read it in their own language.
I’m praying that there will be many serious minded individuals who will do more than gaze in wonder at the manuscript pages – and will want to find out why the book itself was so important to St.Cuthbert. And that as a result many will read the Gospel of John for themselves and be so impacted by what they read that the message of John 1:12 and John 3:16 will transform their lives.
And then I’m praying that there will be at least one of these who will be so impacted by what God has done for them that they will become another John Wesley who will rise up as an evangelist to the nation. Come to think of it, the Government could well have unintentionally funded one of the most effective evangelistic efforts there has been for many a long year!
£9 million pounds is a huge amount of money for anyone to pay for one book – but if one person is saved as a result, in God’s economy it will be worth it. But just think what the consequences for the Kingdom of God would be if that person had as remarkable an effect on our 21st Century world as John Wesley had on his 18th Century world. £9 million pounds would be a very small price to pay for the consequential incredible blessings to the nation.
Will you join with me in praying that everyone who goes to see this amazing book will be impacted by the presence of God? And that deep in their hearts they will start to ask questions about the content of the book – questions that would never have occurred to them, were it not for the book’s extraordinary age and value? God can still move in mysterious ways!