Some people may take for granted the easy access we have to the Bible. However, said Dr. Harold Rawlings, many men and women gave their lives so we could hold in our hands today the Bible in the English language.
That is why, for the past several years, Dr. Rawlings has traveled the world with his unique collection of historical texts – most of which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries – sharing the evolution of the English-language Bible.
He said he feels it is very important for Christians to understand the sacrifices made by our ancestors.
“We are able to put together the story here, where people can see it, not under the lights of a museum,” Dr. Rawlings said.
He brought his collection to the Palm Beach Atlantic University Warren Library on Oct. 18 and 19, sharing his knowledge – and his books – with students, faculty, staff, and prospective students and their families.
“Seeing the Bibles here in front of them makes it so much more real and meaningful,” said Dr. Rawlings, who decided to begin the collection after retiring from his pastorate in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Harold Rawlings holds his copy of the second edition of the Tyndale New Testament from the fourteenth century in the Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library on Oct. 19. Dr. Rawlings presented the small Tyndale version of the Bible as part of a lecture on the history of the English Bible itself.
His collection includes many first editions, although Dr. Rawlings usually does not travel with them. For his trip to PBA, however, Dr. Rawlings brought along a first edition of the King James Bible.
“I grew up on the King James Bible,” he said. “It’s hard to improve on it.”
During the presentation, named “Trial by Fire” after Dr. Rawlings’ book of the same name, he worked his way down a line of aged texts, some marked by water stains, but most in excellent condition.
The collection Dr. Rawlings shared with PBA, he said, is valued at about $500,000. The money for the collection comes from the Rawlings Foundation, a nonprofit set up by Dr. Rawlings’ family to support him and his three brothers in their ministries.
Dr. Rawlings said his favorite Bible in the collection is a second edition Tyndale New Testament from the 14th century. In his presentation, Dr. Rawlings details the history of the Tyndale Bible and the great lengths to which its translator, William Tyndale, went in order to realize his mission.
“I spend so much time talking about Tyndale because you can see his influence on later editions of the Bible,” Dr. Rawlings said, gesturing to the Bibles on display. “He cast such a long shadow on English Bible translation.”
Dr. Rawlings was invited to PBA by his granddaughter, Rachel Hubbard ’11, an access services specialist in the Warren Library. She said the library wants to be a place students can go to be introduced to education and learning.
Hubbard added that the presentation is the perfect opportunity for students to find out more about the history of the Bible.
“Students are meeting with him, talking with him about what they’re learning,” Hubbard said. “They can see the Bibles they’re learning about right now.”
Sophomore Biblical studies major Mary Roberts took photos of the Bibles with her cellphone.
“I’m super intrigued,” Roberts said, smiling. She came to hear the presentation with Dr. Kathy Maxwell’s History of Christianity class. “We’ve all talked about these Bibles, and now we get to see them. It’s incredible.”
That, to Dr. Rawlings, is what the presentation is all about.
“It makes it a little different to see them like this,” Dr. Rawlings said. “It helps us understand the struggle to get this Bible to us.”
For more information about Dr. Rawlings and his collection of Bibles, visit www.haroldrawlings.com.