Scribes (literally, “writers”) were very important figures in the Middle East during Biblical times. In the major civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, only a small minority of people learned how to read and write, and they were a critical element of the functioning of their societies and cultures.
In Israel of the Old Testament, scribes recorded everything from business transactions to government edicts, and they were the official historians of their people. Some of them became important court figures, among the king’s highest advisers. In Israel’s religion, they also emerged as the trustees of the evolving record of God’s dealings with his people, which ultimately became our Old Testament. They made careful copies of these spiritual documents and, over time, became respected scholars and teachers of the Law. All because they could write.
Jesus came into that world and, out of his own teachings and his startling sacrificial death and resurrection, built the Church, and its written legacy, the New Testament. Through the ages of early church history, a new breed of scribes emerged in the person of dedicated monks, many of whom gave their lives entirely to writing, to copying, illuminating and commenting on the Old and New Testament words from God. Without their total dedication to their gift of writing, we would not be able to hold a modern Bible in our hand.
A wonderful invention accelerated and magnified this process early in the fifteenth century – the printing press. Suddenly, it became possible for a simple machine to duplicate the work of thousands of monks in one day. Not only did this make tedious manual copying obsolete, but it also released the creative energies of writers who had things to say through theological and philosophical treatises, journals, novels and poetry. And these creative writings could be reproduced and circulated until they reached the far corners of the world.
In 1837 telegraph was invented, and sending audio messages became streamlined. By the turn of the century, the use of radios waves made wireless communication possible, and there has been constant, accelerating progress ever since, from radio, to television, to computer technology, to smart phones and beyond. People today turn to Siri for immediate information, where our ancestors would have depended on scribes or monks who may have to spend years pouring through volumes for the same knowledge. Trying to imagine the next chapter can be mind-blowing.
Everyone can learn to use a smart phone, but not everyone can put words together in a way that communicates, persuades and inspires. In fact, text-messaging sometimes seems to be a return to the rhythmic grunting of primitive cave-dwellers. But there are some among us who have a gift for writing. These people need to be acknowledged and appreciated.
It is our desire to honor those of the ABC family who have the gift of writing at Homecoming Sunday, this week, November 6. We’ve invited people who sense an inner drive to express themselves through writing, whether their works have been formally published or not, to bring them and share them with us on Sunday. We will be celebrating your writing as a gift from God. You are ABC Scribes through whom God continues to speak his word to us.
— Pastor George Van Alstine