I don't know who Russell Laycock was, but I have his Bible (pictured here).
A family member gave it to me for Christmas. Inside the worn black leather cover there's a pasted-in note that says, "Presented by The First Presbyterian Church of Racine, Wis., to Russell Laycock, June 13th, 1909." Is there still such a church? It appears so, given this Web page.
People in my family know I collect Bibles -- not necessarily rare and expensive ones but, rather, different translations and ones that are simply intriguing. So when one of our kids was in Denver earlier this year, he bought it from some kind of clear-out sales table at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral there. And I unwrapped it for Christmas.
How the Bible made it from Racine to Denver is a mystery to me, but one I may try to unpack as I have time in the weeks ahead. In fact, I asked the pastor of the Racine church, Ben Johnston-Krase, about this and just received this answer today: "There are no Laycocks left at First Presbyterian Church that I know of, and there haven't been any for at least the past thirty years or so. Sorry to not be able to make an interesting story more interesting!"
What I do know about this old King James Version is that someone -- perhaps Russell Laycock himself -- studied it diligently.
How do I know? There are all kinds of notes in the margins of the pages. Indeed, I could be wrong, but it appears that the note maker, in the book of Genesis, was seeking to identify passages that Bible scholars attribute to different sources. I find the letter J here and there in the margin, and that may well be a sign that the reader thought that passage can be traced to the Yahwist tradition, which scholars label "J" after the German transliteration of the name for God, YHWS.
There also are E and P traditions in Genesis and the margin notes indicate that the reader, perhaps 100 years ago, was aware of all that.
My point in bringing any of this to your attention is simply to say that sacred writ continues to engage us generation after generation and that each generation must struggle to find meaning for its time and place in what has been handed down to it.
Somehow I find it encouraging to know that 100 years ago people were struggling to understand the same Bible that engages the hearts and minds of so many of us still today.
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YET ANOTHER POLL ON RELIGION
I'm sure, sort of, that polls mean something, but often I have trouble figuring out what they're trying to tell us. Just this week, for instance, the Gallup folks released results of a poll showing that about 70 percent of Americans think religion is losing its influence in the country. Wonder what "losing its influence" means to people. Wonder if they think that's a good thing or a bad thing. Wonder what influence they think religion should have. Wonder if half those polled disagree with the other half even when they gave the same answers. Does this poll point us toward the reality that we're entering the post-Christian age in America? Maybe. If so, it's probably right. But who knows?