Bible as Library

Bible as Library


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



These books themselves, in some instances (Psalms, Proverbs, Pentateuch),

were in turn made a unit by their arrangement and naming as a whole



The Bible Itself a Library

By Ernest Cushing Richardson

Librarian of Princeton University 


The Bible is itself a library. During the Middle Ages it was commonly called, first “The Divine Library” and then “The Library” (Bibliotheca) in the same exclusive sense that it is now known as “The Book” (Biblia as Latin singular). Even the word Bible itself is historically “Library” rather then “Book” for it was originally the neuter Biblia “The Books,” although now made by violence into a Latin feminine singular, and “the books,” i.e., books collectively, is a natural and common name for library.

The Bible itself speaks of itself now as “The Books” (Dan. 9:2) or “The Writings” (Scriptures) (Matt. 21, 42; Jo. 5, 39, etc.) now as the sacred or holy books or  writings (Ro. 1, 2; 2 Tim. 3, 15), but always in the plural and equivalent to a specific collection of books or a library, the singular “scripture” or “book” being used only of specific quotations or books. The use of bibliotheca for Bible grew perhaps from the fact that books in many rolls were kept together in a box–the “bookcase,” capsa or (biblio)theke. the “Pentateuch” is a five-roll book-box. the sacred book-chest or the book-chest became naturally applied to that containing the Biblical books.

The evolution of the name Bible seems to have been (1) the books (Dan. 9: 2)= simple library, (2) the sacred books (1 Macc. 12: 9; Rom. 1: 2; 2 Tim. 3: 19), (3) the Books (Scriptures) par excellence (Matt. 21: 42, etc.), (4) the Books (Biblia) par excellence (2 Es. Clem 14: 2) (5) the Book  (Bible).

The Bible is also a library by nature as well as by name in that it is an organized collection of books rather than a single work. Originally the Bible as a whole, like the Old Testament before it, was a collection of concrete separate books at a certain spot in space and time. These books themselves, in some instances (Psalms, Proverbs, Pentateuch), were in turn made a unit by their arrangement and naming as a whole. At this point, where it was a collection of real books, the Bible was still a library, although when copied as a whole it became a book which like other similar collections is also properly, though in a derived sense, called a library (Library of American Literature, Altfranzosisch Bibliothek).

This fact that the Bible is itself a library is increasingly mentioned of late, especially in Old Testament studies (Kent. beginnings p. 1, “The Old Testament is a library.” Delitzsch. Babel and Bible, p. 4, “the Old Testament, that small library of books of the most multifarious kind”). Its profound bearing on the theory of the composition and inspiration of the Bible has given the fact new significance and makes an understanding of the nature of a library one of the best tools for the interpretation of the Bible in the face of modern problems. . . .

Source: Ernest Cushing Richardson, Biblical Libraries: A Sketch of Library History from 3400 B.C. to A.D. 150. Princeton University Press, 1914

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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update 28 December 2011




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