Bethel Mennonite Library and Archives tries to grab your attention with an invitation to view the oldest book in its collection, which celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2022.

The 1522 edition of the New Testament in Greek and Latin, edited by Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), is currently on display in plain view upon entering the front door of the MLA, in a case constructed by the technician at the Kauffman Museum Dave Kreider.

It is currently open at John 1, where students traditionally begin when they learn New Testament Greek.

The New Testament will be on display for the 2021-22 school year, and archivist John Thiesen plans to turn the pages periodically in different places in the book so viewers can see more of its features.

Cornelius Krahn (1902-90), Mennonite historian, scholar, and Bethel faculty member largely responsible for developing the MLA into an important historical resource, joined the Erasmus New Testament in 1967.

This likely means that Krahn bought it in Amsterdam while attending the Mennonite World Conference assembly there earlier that year. But little is known about its provenance.

“It has a ‘$ 20’ annotation in Krahn’s handwriting, which would be $ 163 today,” says Thiesen. “The price was relatively low, probably because the title page is missing.

“The signature ‘O. Kramer ‘is inside the cover, but we haven’t been able to identify who it is.

Another feature of this volume is that, as the third edition of Erasmus’s New Testament (the first edition of 1516 was the very first published Greek translation), it includes the initial appearance of the “Johannine comma”.

It is a set of Trinitarian phrases inserted in I John 5: 7-8. Erasmus excluded them from earlier editions because he did not find them in the earliest Greek manuscripts.

With the Johannine comma, the passage reads, in the new revised standard version: “For there are three which bear witness [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (8) And there are three that bear witness in earth,] the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Thiesen speculates that in the third edition Erasmus felt pressure from church officials to include a reference to “the Trinity” (God the Father, Christ the Son or “Word” and the Holy Spirit).

William Tyndale used the third edition for the first published English translation of the New Testament, in 1526, as did the translators of the King James version of the Christian Bible.

The deputy’s book is bound with vellum (veal), which Thiesen calls “an intermediate choice, not the cheapest but not particularly fancy”.

In the 16th century, books were sold unbound, in the form of stacks of pages. The buyer would then have the book bound.

“The owner [of our book] may have chosen this type of binding to be able to write titles and other notes on the spine, which this copy has.

In addition, the original purchaser wrote a fair number of marginal notes before the book was bound – or at least before the current binding – as marginal notes can be found cut off at the edges when the pages were cut for binding. “

Thiesen hopes the 500-year-old book brings a few more members of the public to the MLA to view it and learn about the library.

From 2017 to 2020, Dale Schrag, with support from Bethel’s Advancement Office, worked successfully to raise a million dollar endowment for the archives.

Now, the hope is the success of an unofficial campaign to raise the next million, to ensure that the MP’s historic resources remain protected and accessible for generations to come.

The opening hours of the MLA during the school year are 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday and 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday (closed during school holidays) . Call 316-284-5304 or visit and use the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page to make an appointment after hours.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for its academic excellence, Bethel ranks 15th in the Washington Monthly list of “Best colleges of license” and n ° 31 in American News and World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, both for 2021-22. Bethel was the only college or university in Kansas selected for the American Association of College & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, and was named the TRHT Campus Center. For more information see

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