This column written by our own Bible expert, Dr. Les Brown, is to provide an open door for communication in all matters Biblical or Spiritual. Looking forward to publishing your questions or comments and his responses on a weekly basis. This is a relaxed forum that invites questions, comments, as well as conversations. ================================================== Maybe because I am an ex-administrator, I have an intense interest in how things came to be and their potential cost. I recognized that the writers of the New Testament also had to deal with such mundane factors which resulted in my search for data related to the topics. However, it is difficult for us to visualize in our present-day world an environment without printing presses, computers, and the internet. The documents comprising the New Testament were all hand printed. So, let us start with the basics – paper. By the time of Jesus, few documents were recorded on clay tablets or animal skins. Most were written on papyrus. However, Egypt had monopoly on it and charged accordingly. The standard sheet of papyrus was ten inches wide and twelve feet long. It was so thin that only one side could be utilized. The papyrus was just a blank sheet so the first thing that needed to be done was to draw lines on it to accommodate the height of the various letters and vertical lines to separate the columns. There were usually three columns and sometimes two. When a document filled one page another sheet had to be pasted on the bottom of the previous page so longer manuscripts could continue to be written. You may recall that early writings were stored on scrolls. There is considerable data available on Paul’s system of composing his Letters. Further, quite often Paul describes his style of writings within his Letters. Many of his Letters were written before the publication of the early Gospels. Luke states he sometimes traveled with Paul, but I am a bit doubtful of his claims as his descriptions of various events vary from what Paul reports. Paul did not actually write any of his documents. He tells of dictating his works to a secretary frequently an entire book without notes! Many scholars claim that Paul was unable to write. Literacy in those times was defined as the ability to read NOT write. After dictating his Letters Paul was able to read through them to double-checking their accuracy. The next step in the process was having a scribe putting them in manuscript form. The requirement for being a scribe was very specialized. There were left-handed scribes for Hebrew and Aramaic and right- handed ones for Greek or Latin. The reason for this specialization was the word order of the sentences. Hebrew reads from right to left and most other languages read from left to right and the scribe had to be cautious not to smudge the ink, which was likely to happen if the wrong scribe was not chosen. An interesting fact is that the secretaries for Paul and other ‘writers’ were usually foreigners primarily from Greece or other eastern European countries. Israel’s system of denying education for girls and concentrating on lessons on the reading or memorizing the Torah for boys resulted in the lack of available secretaries! The ‘letters’ were all in capitals with no punctation and no spaces between words. Some years ago, our Doctor John Cook gave a message on this phenomenon. He used the phrase: JESUSISNOWHERE. What does this sentence mean to you? Does it say: Jesus is now here. or Jesus is nowhere? The manuscripts were meant to be read aloud so the reader would have to decide when separating the words. Reading of the manuscripts aloud was necessary as the literacy rate in ancient Israel seldom exceeded five percent. Obviously, the preparation and recording of the manuscripts proved to be a costly endeavor. Consider the following examples: The Book of Romans is roughly 18 pages and would cost in today’s dollars about $ 4000. The Gospel of Matthew is roughly 43 pages and in today’s dollars would cost about $ 8500. Few biblical writers would be able to pay such amounts. Consequently, the individual writers had to seek sponsors. Luke openly relates that he had a sponsor: “ Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled or surely believed among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)
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