Published in 1807 and Still On Display

by DanWolgemuth on January 15, 2021

A picture. A puzzle. One thousand pieces.

We received two for Christmas. One is complete, another is beckoning for attention.

But what if, without my knowledge, the packers of the puzzles withheld pieces? What if it wasn’t just a piece or two, but many? What if the package showed a beautiful picture with the promise of a completed design, and there were more pieces missing than supplied? What if?

Cruel? Unthinkable?

In 1807, Law and Gilbert Publishing of London produced a Bible with the intent to “educate and convert Negro slaves” specifically in the British West Indies. But instead of facilitating a righteous cause, the Bible was a cruel and overt form of manipulation.

Of the 1,189 chapters that make up the Bible that currently sits beside me… the Slave Bible, as it was called, only contained 232. And this was no innocent truncation. This was overt and calculated.

Only 10% of the Old Testament was present. And only 50% of the New Testament could be found in the 1807 edition. And missing from this text were references to freedom, liberty, rescue and hope. In fact, the escape of the Jews from Egypt was missing in action. The entire book of Revelation, AWOL.

Equal standing at the throne of God was not a part of the strategy of oppression.

A 1,189-piece puzzle… with a picture of the Kingdom of God on the cover… and 957 pieces missing. Disconnected realities. Aborted hope. A gift that became a weapon.

Justice. Dignity. Diversity. Equality. Unity. All on the cutting room floor.

The timeless, transcendent Word of God as a permission slip for hatred and abuse. For exploitation. For profitability and productivity. For slavery.

But before I become too comfortable in the judgment seat, I have to ask myself a probing question. Am I living fully into the Word of God? In far less overt or offensive ways, have I snipped, ignored, overlooked or avoided passages of scripture that land far too close to home?

Am I comfortable highlighting one section of scripture because it makes MY point, while I dismiss the full counsel of God’s Word? Have I created my own version of the Slave Bible that suits my purposes, that fits my agenda, that supports my platform?

The offensive travesty of the 1807 Slave Bible still ripples through time. On so many levels.

Pieces missing. A picture that is incomplete. A fractured and broken kingdom. An unfulfilled mandate.

But make no mistake… God has not lost these pieces. He is not on His hands and knees looking under the table to see if He can locate them. And He is not oblivious or indifferent to what we do with this gift. In His mercy He points us back to the power of His Word. Fully formed. Humbly revered.

Timeless. Redemptive. Restorative.

A picture of unconditional love. A picture of the Kingdom of God. A picture of a diverse Body working together. A picture of the Bride of Christ. A picture… with no pieces missing.

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