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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Writing

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As ancient nations and communities developed, people became increasingly aware of the benefits that writing brought. Over the centuries they used a variety of materials and methods in their efforts to develop the art and improve their skills.

An early practices was to engrave letters on a smooth surface of bare stone, clay, or stone covered with plaster. The writing was done with a sharp-pointed instrument, usually on rectangular tablets of a size that people could easily handle (Exodus 32:15-16; Deuteronomy 27:2-3; Job 19:24; Isaiah 8:1). A more common practice for writings and records of lesser importance was to write in ink on pieces of pottery (technically known as ostraca).

Engraved tablets of stone or clay effectively preserved the writing, but their size and weight limited their usefulness. A more convenient material was developed from a reed known as papyrus (from which we get the English word ‘paper’) or byblos. Dried flat strips of papyrus were stuck together to form a flat sheet, which a person wrote upon using a pen and ink. The pen also was made from a papyrus reed (2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:13).

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Papyrus writing sheets were often joined to form a long strip, which was then rolled into a scroll (Jeremiah 36:2; Revelation 5:1). The Greeks called a scroll a biblion (after the byblos, or papyrus, plant). From this word we get the word ‘Bible’ as a name for that collection of scrolls, or books, that Christians acknowledge as the Scriptures. Since papyrus did not last well, writers sometimes used specially dried animal skin (parchment) instead. Parchment was much more expensive than papyrus, and usually people used it only for those writings that were more important or in more constant use (Luke 4:17; Luke 4:20; 2 Timothy 4:13).

Although the word ‘book’ sometimes appears in English translations of the Old and New Testaments, the article referred to was not a book in the sense that we understand today (i.e. a collection of sheets bound together). It was most likely a scroll. The book form developed early in the second century AD. Christians found this form particularly useful, not simply because books were easier to read than scrolls, but because the sacred writings could be kept together more conveniently. A few books could contain the writings of many scrolls. This kind of book has become known as a codex. (See also MANUSCRIPTS.)

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Writing'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bbd/w/writing.html. 2004.

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