The Bible and World War One


As churches up and down the country mark Remembrance Sunday, many will gather at war memorials as they have done for nearly 100 years.

This year’s commemorations have an added poignancy as we mark the centenary of World War One. Some nine million men were killed and a further 21 million were injured.

Now, as then, the Bible lies at the heart of that remembrance. Many war memorials bear the words: ‘Greater love hath no man than this’ (John 15:13).

Dr Michael Snape, Reader in War, Religion and Society at Birmingham University explains why so many communities chose this verse.

‘Jesus is speaking about himself, but also about those who lay down their lives for their faith,’ he says. ‘That points to a parallel between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of these men. That’s very profound.’

The context of this verse would have been understood at the time, says Dr Snape. ‘This verse would have reassured people that their loved ones died for the highest possible purpose.

‘The world would be a better place because of their sacrifice,’ he adds. The words, he said, offered ‘comfort and reassurance’ to bereaved families.

War memorials also offered a place where people could pray and remember their dead who were buried, or simply lost, hundreds of miles away. They were in effect, a public graveside.

‘You have to have somewhere where people can remember their loved ones who had been buried elsewhere,’ he says. ‘The Bible is the central text in helping people to do that.’

Listen to Dr Michael Snape talk about the Bible and Remembrance

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