Editor's note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a Swiss pastor launched a Bible copying campaign during the quarantine months. Positive responses soon came from many countries that people of all ages handwrote chapters of the Bible even in different languages. The handwritten Bible, also called "COVID Bible", shows the word of God can't be quarantined.
The ingenuity of the believer’s intellect and heart is evidenced by many things. In the time of today’s coronavirus epidemic too, especially the Swiss initiative that created the COVID BIBLE (Corona-Bible) during the most difficult pandemic months. The owner of the ingeniously simple but great idea is UWE HABENICHT, a Swiss Reformed/Calvinistic pastor. As a result, 80% of the 1189 chapters of the Bible are ready in copy form. This handwritten Bible, called the CORONA BIBLE of St. Gallen, was handed over to the famous Bible Museum, as a sign of hope and despite obligatory seclusion, as a time document of togetherness and Christian community. (Source)
I look and look at the different manuscripts and I am amazed: these are the beautiful unity of freedom and disciplinary content.
Several meters of filing boxes on the desk of the St. Gallen Bible Museum, containing valuable handwriting of many, many people: children, adults, the elders, in archaic Germanic spelling, or another language. With illustrations of children, beautiful, carefully drawn codex initiation pages of adults, golden letters with the titles of the Exodus chapter, a folk art motif on Luke 12, pamphlets, or poster-like stylized pages from Psalm 138. In the same color in Isaiah 12. In Latin, Letter 5 to the Hebrews. It’s simply amazing to see how many people have so many styles. At the same time, I feel on the part of the copiers how much they respect the precious Word of our God in freedom, with disciplined content. Likewise, I feel the free choice of copiers, and also the joy of care and their diligence. This handwritten Bible is a brilliant community venture that expresses the quality of an even more powerful togetherness, the spiritual, holy community of the church, and the Christians above the pandemic. The Word of our God is the golden thread that binds brother souls together — worldwide and in our small environment, in China and Hungary too. Beautiful! Blessed be the Holy Trinity God, who inspired with His Holy Spirit, and blessed the Reformed pastor with such an acting fantasy, and the hundreds, thousands of unknown brothers and sisters who took the initiative as many, many 21st-century secular code copiers, as Presbyterians, church members, young people, and elders. As a really invisible free church, existing in us and between us, in this noble, spiritual, and mental self-help service.
How did the career history of the CORONA BIBLE begin? The opportunity was at hand for everyone.
Following a thought from God, Pastor Uwe Habenicht thought he was proclaiming his idea of Bible copying first in the Reformed and Catholic congregations in city St. Gallen and then in the Canton. However, positive responses to the email initiative soon came from all over Switzerland and then from abroad too. Everyone undertook to copy a or more chapter from their Bible. The initiative soon had great resonance and popularity, as it managed to bridge isolation, forced rest, and insecurity through activities that are, in fact, always at hand. After all, everyone has a Bible, even if it may not be in their hands on a daily basis, but on the bookshelf. Applicants’ emails came from outside their own Canton, many from Bern, the capital of Switzerland, others from Zurich, then Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, and even the United States. The only general condition was the handwritten copying of the Bible. And hard-working hands started to work with enthusiastic hearts ...
Fantastically clever Bible school
It was a very important aspect from the beginning, and the Pastor said in each case that the copiers would copy the text slowly, meticulously, thoughtfully, without haste. About reflecting on what they are copying. A kind of spiritual rhythm also followed the copying, attunement to the text of the Bible and the message. Fantastically clever Bible school! Despite the fact that the copiers copied with their own individual handwriting style, thus preserving and embedding their individuality and specific imprint of their personality, the copying also highlighted them from the world of individual problems, individualism, and confinement. After all, what they copied repeatedly elevated them to the sphere outside them. At first, the open Bible in front of them, with the text to be copied, and then the text itself, the Word of God, confronted them further historical, specific situations, ages, dialogues, or historical descriptions, the Bible further elevated them to poetic and philosophical spheres, or to events of redemption and salvation history. Multiple elevations were thus born, a particular self-transcendence, a peculiar individual exodus for each of whom was realized from his/her own "Egypt," and this too was a tremendous experience in the handwriting of the Bible! Moreover, the biblical past and foresight was as much a positive opportunity in their volunteer work, a call and an offer in the act of copying, as the interpretation of the present is not through subjective thoughts but through the Word, the revelation, the Holy Word of the Bible.
A true spiritual journey of discovery - COVID-BIBLE in digital format too
Pastor Habenicht has repeatedly said that he has received not only chapter copies from the people, an international copying team of many hundreds, but also testimonies of their experiences while copying the chapter. The letters are also about real biblical journeys of discovery and inner self-knowledge. There are young women who are so engrossed in collecting biblical knowledge and immersed themselves in old stories that they have copied one of the full books of the five books of Moses.
Since the copies were sometimes made in some dialect of some language, in the landscape language, or in other languages, Armenian, Ethiopian, or Arabic, the pastor decided to make a digitized version of this fantastic venture, with the help of the Cantonese Library of St. Gallen.
What else can come to mind about all this? The Word of God Himself, without which this great idea could not have been born and realized, and that He and the Bible cannot be quarantined, He is a free and inspiring Lord who elevates us from the depths:
“Behold, for peace, I had great bitterness...” (Isaiah 38,17 - The New Scofield Reference Bible)
(The author is a Reformed church pastor in Budapest, Hungary)