Once again twitter has aided my discovery of an author. I first became acquainted with today’s guest blogger when she tweeted the trailer for her book Trunk of Scrolls. Fascinated as I am by early church history, I made a mental note to read this book. Today I am pleased to host debut Christian author Darlene N. Bocek.
**Be sure to read through to the end where you can claim a free copy of her three-part novella.
Thank you for inviting me here today. It’s my pleasure to be on Christian Shelf-Esteem.
The Book of Books
Ever since I was young, I’ve been enthralled by ancient history. My second grade teacher read us a book about Pompeii opening my eyes to the strange idea that people of the past were actual people. If you know about child psychology, you realize there is a moment when kids see that the world doesn’t probably revolve around themselves. This moment of mine tied itself in history, and I was hooked.
Of course the book that ties all of us on this blog together is the Bible. We read Christian historical, biblical historical, Christian non-fiction, YA Christian fiction. Yet the tie-that-binds is Christ, and our common book above all books is Scripture of the Old and New Testament.
The history of those people was beautifully scripted by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. But Moses was the first Christian storyteller. He set the foundation for knowing other lives of faith and how they parallel our lives.
We get through the book of Acts, and the epistles that supplement it, then the story trails off. The last thing we read is that Paul was under house arrest, “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31) It’s like the baton is passed to the reader, harkening our thoughts back to the last words in Matthew “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19)
We all know these words. They are the purpose for our lives. Living for Christ, testifying through word and deed, and holding fast to the cross come what may.
But what happens next is often a blur. How did the Old and New Testaments get into our hands? This is one thing I explore in my novel, Trunk of Scrolls. It is a story about a family living in old Byzantium, who are the last of the common people to still have copies of the Bible. Only one family owns a Bible.
The journey from scroll to tome to printed book is a fascinating one. And I believe Christians should know this story, because in this day and age everyone challenges how the Bible can be reliable when it was copied and distributed so many times.
So in the context of this question, I wanted to introduce you to Pamphilus.
Pamphilus: The First Christian Librarian
No one, perhaps, has heard about Pamphilus. But he was a bookworm. A book lover. A librarian who would pass out copies of the Bible to anyone he could.
Pamphilus lived during the late 200s. By this time, there were many writings by the Church Fathers that were “around” but not together. Some were in the library as he inherited it, but he wanted this to be comprehensive.
According to Jerome, Pamphilus “searched throughout the world for examples that were true and eternal monuments of gifted writers.” He collected all he could of what was Christian and worthy and pulled them into the Library of Caesarea Maritima.
He hunted down and collected and catalogued reputable and even questionable writers. Because of his thorough efforts, today we still know the titles of these books.
Two books there were called the Hexapla and the Tetrapla. The Hexapla was an eight-column word for word comparison of the Greek Septuagint with the original Hebrew Scriptures, and other Greek translations—a parallel Old Testament which Church Father Origen had made himself! The Tetrapla was a four-column comparison of Greek copies of Scripture.
Today all it takes is for us to click onto biblegateway.org or biblehub.org and we see not only all the English versions, but other language versions of the Bible. The Bible is as close to us as our next phone call! But for these men, the Bible had to be sought out. We can do a word-study without much effort. Not so those first Christians. They were dependent on each other.
One thing about Pamphilus that warms my heart is written beautifully by church historian Neander, based on a quote from Jerome:
The presbyter Pamphilus, a man of Caesarea in Palestine distinguished by his zeal for piety and knowledge…founded at Caesarea an Ecclesiastical library, which, as late as the fourth century, contributed much to the promotion of learned studies. Every friend of knowledge, and especially every one to whom the thorough and fundamental study of the Bible was an object, found with him every kind of assistance, and he endeavored to multiply, to extend, and correct the manuscripts of the Bible. He made presents of many Bibles, even to women, whom he saw much busied in the reading of Scripture. He established a theological school, in which the study of Scripture was carried on with great earnestness. The learned Eusebius, who was indebted for every thing to Pamphilus, and looked upon him as a friend, and almost as a father, probably came forth from this school.
This librarian, true to form of a librarian, made copies of the Bible and passed these on to whomever wanted them, “even women”! In the 200s. Because he did this, thousands of copies of the original NT manuscript exist today. And from these manuscripts found in this library, Constantine in the 300s was able to “order” his famous 50 copies of the complete Scripture from Eusebius!
We find this idea wonderful, because it matches our own desire to post Scripture verses on Facebook and Twitter, but strangely the idea of copying and distributing Scripture became more and more scandalous as the church developed. The church eventually outlawed the reading of the Bible by the common man.
Have you ever considered the life of Christians without the Bible to guide them? Yet there was a long time in church history when the Word of God was hard to come by and reading it by laity was forbidden. My novel Trunk of Scrolls is about that time.
In Trunk of Scrolls, a coming-of-age novel, sixteen year old Marcellus struggles with a world that is falling apart. Facing earthquake, fire, riot, abduction, betrayal, and a God who seems set on destroying them, the family has to survive in flesh and soul. All they have is a sword, an engagement ring, the tooth of an infant saint, a trunkful of Scripture Scrolls, and the torch of faith. Can any of these help them make it to Constantinople to find their missing father and restore their lost fortune?
This book will make wonderful summer reading for you and your children.
What reviewers have said,
“The entire time I was reading Trunk of Scrolls I could picture it being such a wonderful family adventure film!”
“Trunk of Scrolls fell open and I fell in, and throughout the adventure, mystery, drama, action and romance, I found myself lost in the author’s world.”
“This exciting and engaging story takes us back to the sixth century in order to consider the most critical question of every age: Who is Jesus Christ? A great read!”
Darlene N. Bocek is a pastor’s wife, writer and homeschool mom of four. She lives in Izmir, Turkey.
For more information about Darlene and Trunk of Scrolls, visit: http://darlenenbocek.com.
Purchase paperback or ebook through http://entrustsourcepublishers.com/trunk-of-scrolls.
For more information on Pamphilus, check out https://darlenenbocek.com/facts-of-the-matter-pamphilus.
The Lost Trunk is a serial novella introducing Trunk of Scrolls. It’s to be read in tandem with Trunk of Scrolls, though the first section starts before you read the novel, (while you’re waiting for the book to arrive if you order the paperback). It’s a 21st century tie-in. Trunk of Scrolls has “easter eggs” marking when to read the next installment of The Lost Trunk. This link tells about the way it works: Trunk of Scrolls SE “The Lost Trunk”.