How to throw away a Bible

Old Bible

After some saints of my church decided to clear out our Sunday School storage area (who wants to do that job?), an unusual question was posed:

“What do we do with damaged Bibles?”

I was not quite sure how to answer the question.  I figured we could donate the Bibles to Salvation Army or another religious non-profit.

After the damaged Bibles sat in a box outside of my office for a week, another church member asked about the Bibles.  I told her that we were going to donate the Holy books.  She picked up one of the Bibles and pages started fall out.

“We are going to donate these?” The look on her face told me that these Bibles were not worthy to give to anyone and she was right. How can you tell others about Christ when the end of the book of Luke is missing?

How do you throw away a Bible?  That question just seems wrong.  I believe the proper question is, “How do you properly dispose of damaged Bibles?” You cannot just burn them.  I think. That just evokes images of Nazi Germany and book burning.  Not the route we want to go here folks.

After some research, I discovered the answer to the question, “How do you properly dispose of damaged Bibles? The answer is:

…there is no “right way.”

Jews bury damaged Torah scrolls and even put the scrolls in a mini-“coffin”.  A service follows.  In Catholicism, there are rites to dispose of Bibles, but none are prescribed by church law.  I read an online discussion room about this matter and Catholics jokes they wished their church Bibles were worn out (that would be a good sign of use).  One lady even said in her 30 years as a parish employee, she never ran into the problem!

The Bibles in question.

Here are some possible disposal options:

  • Recycle it.  It is better that the Good Book could be put into something useful than just ending up in a land fill.
  • Repair it. The best option, but not cost effective.
  • Donate it.  Who wants a Bible with missing pages? Would you want to read a book that is missing the ending?
  • Burn it. Remember that book burning scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?
  • Bury it. Seems respectable.

The issue at hand is just how reverent do you treat the Bible?  RBC Ministries has a take on this issue:

…even though we don’t venerate the Bible as a physical object, we should treat old Bibles with respect because of the sacred truth they contain.even though we don’t venerate the Bible as a physical object, we should treat old Bibles with respect because of the sacred truth they contain. It is somewhat a matter of Christian liberty how we dispose of an old Bible.

Though we see the Bible as holy, we do not worship the Bible.  We worship God.  However, we respect and cherish God’s word.  In turn, we must respect and cherish the words that have inspired us to become Christians.  Thus, we should have a way in which we relieve a Bible’s duty to communicate God’s word because the book is not in readable condition.

My vote is for burial and to have a short liturgy.  When communion is unused, many churches commit the elements to the ground.  Should we do the same with Bibles? What do you think?

Alan Rudnick

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Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education.

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  • Steven W. De Bernardi

    Bury it. Burn it. Recycle it. Respectfully. It isn’t going to damage the Spirit that gives the binding, paper, ink and print life.

  • Bennett Willis

    I have proposed that you have a church service for the purpose of burning old bibles–sort of like flags. For example, I have several bibles that belonged to people who have died. I would say a bit about the person who owned (and marked up) the bible and then lay it on the grid over a good fire. It seems to me that you could make a very interesting and worshipful ceremony. We need to be reminded that there were people before us who laid out the path.
    I can’t get any interest from anyone else though. I agree with Steven that it does not damage the Spirit, but I feel that we are missing a good opportunity to do something of value.

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