I need to begin this article with a personal confession: I once touched the Rosetta Stone.
This ancient basalt slab was discovered in 1799, most likely on July 19, by a French soldier during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign. The Rosetta Stone is so named because it was found near the town of Rosetta, about thirty-five miles east of Alexandria. It contains fragments of Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotic (a popular language in the day). The Greek inscription stated that all three scripts were identical in meaning.
As a result, scholars were able to use the Greek to decipher the hieroglyphics, a language that had been untranslatable for nearly two thousand years.
The Rosetta Stone eventually made its way to the British Museum in London. On my first visit to the museum many years ago, it stood on display surrounded by a red silk rope. There were no guards or warning signs; it seemed anyone could reach out and touch it. So I did.
The next time I visited the museum, the Rosetta Stone was again on display. This time, however, it was encased in thick plexiglass and situated so far away from the ropes that no one could touch even its case. I wondered if this was my fault.
Two seemingly unrelated thoughts seem relevant.
One: God’s word was not only inspired by God’s Spirit, but it was also preserved and transmitted by divine providence as well.
It was given to us in languages that everyone in the day could understand and written on documents that were capable of transmission through the centuries to follow. The New Testament, for example, was written in koine (“common”) Greek, the language used by most people in the Roman Empire.
Unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphics that were undecipherable for millennia, God’s word is available to us in languages we can understand. God not only wrote a book—he made sure everyone could read it.
Two: Just because we can do something does not mean we should do it.
I touched the Rosetta Stone on an impulse and immediately regretted what I had done. As Immanuel Kant reminded us, one good way to measure the ethics of a decision is to ask what would happen if everyone did it. If every tourist who could touch the Stone had done so, it would probably have been marred in tragic ways.
What I did decades ago was wrong. I’m just glad the museum authorities have since protected the Rosetta Stone from such transgressions.
Here’s how my two thoughts combine: the best way to know if we should do something is to ask what God’s word says about it.
The Bible is so accessible to us today, many of us have it on our mobile phones. We can conduct internet searches on biblical questions and find immediate answers. The website openbible.info is especially helpful.
Imagine the difference in our culture if everyone measured what they should do by what the Bible says. You and I cannot make that decision for others, but we can make it for ourselves.
You can no longer touch the Rosetta Stone, but you can touch the word of God. Better still, the word of God can touch you.
When last did reading the Bible change your life? Why not today?