Disposing of old, tattered Bibles

I am wondering about the disposal of old Bibles. We have a couple dozen from our parents, grandparents, etc. While a few are precious and the word, of course, is eternal, what do you do with old, tattered King James translations and others? — Antigo

Please do not throw away the Word of God

I thought this might be a catchy enough title for folks, but the question is a good one: “What does one do with an old, tattered and sometimes worn-out Bible?” 

Well, first, give yourself or whomever previously owned it, a pat on the back because it means that you, or they, have been immersing themselves in the living Word of God. As we encounter in Heb 4:12, “… the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow …” and thus, it is incredibly important to be immersed in the Word. 

The question still remains, though: What does one do with an old Bible? If the Bible is still in good shape, one would have the perfect opportunity to literally pass on the Word of God to another.  There are many used bookstores or stores that sell used books, like Cathedral Book & Gift in Green Bay, any Goodwill store and St. Vincent de Paul stores that would accept them. Another option would be to give a “gently used Bible” to a friend or someone whom you think would appreciate it or benefit from being given the Word of God to read, study and pray with. 

Now, if the Bible has seen better days and is no longer readable or is beyond repair, the short answer to the question is that it should either be burned or buried. This is the standard way the Catholic Church properly disposes of items that have been blessed or that hold special significance in the life of the church. 

As an instrument that has been effective in honing and shaping the reader more fully into an image of Jesus Christ, the sacred text of scripture — though it may not technically be defined as a “sacramental” unless it has been blessed — functions as a sacramental which draws one closer to Christ. As such, it should be treated with dignity and respect which means that it should be either burned or buried in order to return it to the earth in a dignified way. All of this applies to any version of the Bible — Catholic or Protestant, since all Bibles honor the Word of God.

Deacon Johnson is Divine Worship director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Have you ever wondered something about the church or the Catholic faith? If you have a question about the Catholic Church or faith, send it to FAQs, c/o The Compass, P.O Box 23825, Green Bay WI 54305, or via email to [email protected].