I had a thought this morning as I scrutinized the text of 2 Corinthians in an effort to understand a verse in context. It was about the density of thought and concept contained in Paul’s letters. Every line weaves together ideas and principles to build the points he makes. I considered the difference between studying 2 Corinthians and reading the average online article or even the latest book from a respected author. There is no comparison. Few people write at that level of complexity and few will make the effort understand them if they do.
There are a couple of things to note here. First, the Bible is God’s written communication meant to facilitate the salvation and sanctification of humanity for millennia. One should expect that kind of work to be pack with more a little more meat than anything else one might choose to read. Second, it is a book translated mostly from old languages that are no longer spoken in the form that they were written in. We should expect to struggle a little to follow the thought process. The level of clarity that we do have is itself a testament to God’s hand at work throughout the ages.
Now here’s the other contributing factor that I think explains the difference. You see it in the overall quality of literature through time. I’m hardly a qualified critic. Just ask my English teachers. But I will make these observations. It takes time for a book to mature into a classic. It has to be read a lot, be unusually well written, and touch us in some deep lace that most cannot reach. How hard will it be then, in a world overrun with words, to find those few worthy of veneration?
In basic economics, the more there is of something, the less value it has. The easier something is to produce, the more of it we will have. Words today are cheaper than ever in history. It might take me as much as an hour to write this blog post depending on how careful I am about what goes into it. Yet with one click it becomes potentially available for the entire world to read. Anyone with a computer and a few extra dollars can self publish their own book. The world is flooded with words.
Compare that to the effort required in centuries past. When the works that eventually became the Bible were produced, every stroke was done by hand with crude writing instruments. Every copy had to be painstakingly written out the same way. Whether it be a letter to a friend or an epic novel, care was required to make every word count.
It is no wonder to me that even in the pages of writing from the past century we can find a level of depth and nuance rarely seen in anything you pick up today. We had the printing press, then eventually the typewriter, but still it required considerable investment of time to get one’s words into print and in front of an audience. Now, words are cheap. It takes little effort to produce them and even less to publish them for all to see. We’re all a-twitter, and saying little more than the birds from which we get the term.