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How do you retire an old Bible?
A GREAT question, to which there is no one answer. However, it gives rise to opportunity to talk about some other things.
- In the early Church, you couldn’t go to your local Wal-Mart or Christian bookstore and buy a Bible. The copies of the Scriptures were kept with the bishops or pastors and used in church. In that day, because so few could read or write, memorization of a spoken text was both more important and easier for the mind. We had not lost the habit of memorization. Not just anyone could have a Bible. The Bible was treated as something which only believers could possess (although anyone could hear the Scriptures, including those who were interested in the faith and came to the first part of the church service where the Word was preached.) Many priests and bishops who, under persecution, ‘handed over’ the Scriptures to non-believers were excommunicated and had to do penance before being readmitted to communion.
- At St Stephen, in opposition to some other places, the ‘leftover’ elements of the Eucharist are treated with reverence and not simply discarded. Because they have been ‘consecrated’ and the body and blood of Christ are in, with, and under the bread and wine, there is no clear time in which they stop being such. So, they may be reverently consumed, the leftover wafers are kept in the host box, and the wine which has not been poured into the chalice is poured down the ‘piscina’ (a special drain in the sacristy which leads directly into the earth).
All of these things being said, to your question: the Church has no 'official' guidance about retirement of a Bible. This is not something on which the Church gives guidance. You could pass it on to a thrift store. You 'could' burn it. Traditionally we have not done such things such as burn it as in burning a flag.
I found an online article that is helpful. It suggests passing it on, repairing it, simply storing the Bible, burying the Bible, cremating the Bible, or even recycling the Bible.
It would not be wrong to discard a copy of the Bible if it is ruined. The written word is not an idol. It 'contains' the Word of God, and it 'is' the Word of God because it witnesses to Jesus who 'is' the Word (John 1:1, 14: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ To discard an old Bible does not destroy the Word. Your personal piety and sense of propriety may demand another method. If you cannot dispose of a Bible in any other way than discarding it, then, as Luther said, 'sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still.'
Whatever we do, we ought to treat the Scriptures with reverence and respect, not simply by putting them in a prominent place in our home or by properly disposing of the worn copies, but by READING them!
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen (Book of Common Prayer)