Bringing the Books and Parchments: Reflections on Theological Librarianship

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (II Timothy 4:13, ESV)

— Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy as an old man imprisoned in a hole in the ground for spreading Christianity.

The Mamertine Prison is now a tourist destination included on many guided tours of Rome. Back then it was a literal hell-hole for the prisoners who were lowered into this cave-like underground dungeon through a hole in the ceiling. It was here in which the Apostle Paul was likely imprisoned near the end of his life.

Dark. Cold. Lonely.

And yet, he wanted his books. Why? What possible purpose could books serve for someone who knew what it was to have divine truth pour out through his own quill? Paul planted churches, invested in people, taught and discipled those who would teach and disciple. He penned two-thirds of the New Testament. And when the end seemed near, he wanted people … and books?

Lord willing, I will spend the next few posts attempting to answer this question and the implications for ministry in general and the ministry of theological librarianship in particular.

  • Post I. The purpose of books/parchments for Paul
  • Post II. The look of that purpose/need today
  • Post III. How we as theological librarians can meet that need.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. dan graves says:

    Hi Paul,
    Did you ever follow through with the study of Paul’s books and manuscripts? I am interested in reading more. I am especially searching for an anecdote I read some years ago in which a scoffer mentioned this verse and asked how it could be inspired; a noted British Bible scholar (whose name I am trying to recall) replied that this verse saved him from divesting himself of all his books when he once was seized by an obsession that he should do so. If you happen to run across this, don’t hesitate to email me any details you find.

  2. Paul Roberts says:

    Hi Dan,

    I do have more to post on this topic, and with your interest in it I will hopefully post some of it soon. I’m not familiar with that particular anecdote but I will see what I can find. I’ve been swamped with work, coursework, and preaching, and so projects like this and my bookbinding have been temporarily set aside. I will get back to it, though. Thanks for the comments.

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