Paper, Pen, and Ink

Monday, November 14, 2016

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee” (2 John 12,13 KJV).

We use today’s Scripture to glimpse into the culture of “New Testament” times!

The Apostle John wrote in his Third Epistle, verses 13 and 14: “I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.”

In John’s day, A.D. first century, “paper” was quite different from our paper. The cheaper—and thus, more common—form was papyrus. Thin strips were cut from the papyrus plant reed, laid side-by-side and overlapped, with an alternating layer glued on top, all pressed together to form a sheet. More expensive (and rarer) writing media were vellum (calf skins—higher quality) and parchment (bull and goat skins—lesser quality). Text written on skins would obviously last longer than that which was written on papyrus. Scrolls were first, with codices (books) arriving in the third and fourth centuries. What they called “ink” was really a mixture of soot and water, with gum added to make the ink more durable. The “pen” they used for writing was either a small dried reed/stick, cut to a point at one end; or a quill (feather); which was filled with the “ink.”

Friends, it is quite difficult for us to imagine just how laborious writing was in those days. Instruments and materials were crude and sometimes hard to obtain. They did not have computers to which they could dictate, or keyboards on which to type fast. Furthermore, if they wanted to copy a text, there was no photocopying machine. Copying had to be done entirely by hand! Surely, it was very time consuming. However, there were prophets in both “Old and New Testaments,” guided by the Spirit of God, to ensure the Holy Bible was accurately copied and collated. Consider what has been written here. Then, look at your physical Bible today, friend. It has come a long, LONG way! 🙂