Books As these in ancient times were always in MS. form, the treatment of this subject necessarily resolves itself into a consideration of writing. We give the following particulars in addition to those under that head. This is an art by which facts or ideas are communicated from one person to another by means of graphic signs, such as symbols or letters.
I. Origin of Writing. — It has been a generally received and popular opinion that writing was first used and imparted to mankind when God wrote the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone; but the silence of Scripture upon the subject would rather suggest that so necessary an art had been known long before that time, or otherwise the sacred historian would probably have added this extraordinary and divine revelation to the other parts of his information respecting the transactions on Mount Sinai.
It is a remarkable fact, however, that although, with respect to other arts, as, for instance, those of music and metal-working, the Hebrews have assigned the honor of their discovery to the heroes of a remote antiquity. there is no trace or tradition whatever of the origin of letters, a discovery many times more remarkable and important than either of these. Throughout the book' of Genesis there is not a single allusion, direct or indirect, either to the practice or to the existence of writing. The word כָּתִב, kathdb, "to write," does not once occur; none of its derivatives are used; and סֵפֶר, sepher, "a book," is found only in a single passage (Ge 5:1), and there. not in a connection which involves the supposition that the art of writing was known at the time to which it refers. The signet of Judah (Ge 38:18,25) which had probably some device engraven upon it, and Pharaoh's ring (41, 42) with which Joseph was invested, have been appealed to as indicating a knowledge quite consistent with the existence of writing. But as there is nothing to show that the devices upon these rings, supposing them to exist, were written characters, or in fact anything more than emblematical figures, they cannot be considered as throwing much light upon the question. That the Egyptians in the time of Joseph were acquainted with writing of a certain kind there is other evidence to prove; but there is nothing to show that up to this period the knowledge extended to the Hebrew family. At the same time there is no evidence against it. The instance brought forward by Hengstenberg to prove that "signets commonly bore alphabetic writings," is by no means so decisive as he would have it appear. It is Ex 39:30: "And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing of the engravings of a signet, 'Holiness to the Lord.'" That is this inscription was engraved upon the plate as the device is engraved upon a signet, in intaglio; and the expression has reference to the manner of engraving, and not to the figures engraved, and therefore cannot be appealed to as proving the existence of alphabetic characters upon Judah's signet or Pharaoh's ring. Writing is first distinctly mentioned in 17:14, and the connection clearly implies that it was not then employed for the first time, but was so familiar as to be used for historic records. Moses is commanded to preserve the memory of Amalek's onslaught in the desert by committing it to writing. "And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book (not 'a book,' as in the A.V.), and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua." It is clear that some special book is here referred to, perhaps, as Aben-Ezra suggests, the book of the wars of Jehovah, or the book of Jashar, or one of the many documents of the ancient Hebrews which have long since perished. Or it may have been the book in which Moses wrote the words of Jehovah (Ex 24:4), that is, the laws contained in chaps. 20-23. The tables of. the testimony are said to be "written by the finger of God" (Ex 31:18) on both sides, and "the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables" (Ex 23:15). It is not clear whether the passage in Ex 34:28 implies that the second tables were written by Moses or by God himself. The engraving of the gems of the high-priest's breastplate with the names of the children of Israel (Ex 28:11), and the inscription upon the mitre (Ex 39:30), have to do more with the art of the engraver than of the writer, but both imply the existence of alphabetic characters. The next allusion is not so clear. The Israelites were forbidden, in imitation of the idolatrous nations, to put any "brand" (lit. "writing of burning") upon themselves. The figures thus branded upon the skin might have been alphabetical characters, but they were more probably emblematical devices, symbolizing some object of worship; for the root כָּתִב, kathdb (to write) is applied to picture-drawing (Jg 8:14), to mapping out a country (Jos 18:8), and to plan-drawing (1Ch 28:19). The curses against the adulteress were written by the priest" in the book," as before; and blotted out with water (Nu 5:23). This proceeding, though principally distinguished by its symbolical character, involves the use of some kind of ink, and of a material on which the curses were written which would not be destroyed by water. The writing on door-posts and gates, alludled to in De 6:9; De 11:20, though perhaps to be taken figuratively rather than literally, implies certainly an acquaintance with the art and the use of alphabetic characters. Hitherto, however, nothing has been said of the application of writing to the purposes of ordinary life, or of the knowledge of the art among the common people. Up to this point such knowledge is only attributed to Moses arid the priests. From De 24:1,3, however, it would appear that it was extended to others. A man who wished to be separated from his wife for her infidelity, could relieve himself by a summary process. "Let him write her a bill (סֵפֶר, sephe;, "a book") of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house." It is not absolutely necessary to infer from this that the art of writing was an accomplishment possessed by every Hebrew citizen, though there is no mention of a third party; and it is more than probable that these "bills of divorcement," though apparently so informal, were the work of professional scribes. It was enjoined as one of the duties of the king (17:18), that he should transcribe the book of the law for his own private study, and we shall find hereafter in the history that distinct allusions to writing occur in the case of several kings. The remaining instances in the Pentateuch are the writing of laws upon, stone covered with plaster, upon which. while soft the inscription was cut (De 27:3,8), the writing of the song of Moses. (De 31:22), and of the law in a book which was placed in the side of the ark (De 31:24). One of the first acts of Joshua on entering the Promised Land was to inscribe a copy of the law on the stones of the altar on Mount Ebal (Jos 8:32). The survey of the country was drawn out in a book (18:8). In the time of the Judges we first meet with the professional scribe (סֹפֵר, sophier), in his important capacity as marshal of the host of warriors (Jg 5:14), with his staff (A. V. "pen") of office. Ewald (Poet. Bich.'i, 129) regards sopher in this passage as equivalent to שֹׁפֵט, shophet, "judge," and certainly the context implies the high rank which the art of writing conferred upon its possessor. Later on in the history we read of Samuel writing in "the book" the manner of the kingdom (1Sa 10:25); but it is not till the reign of David that we hear for the first time of writing being used for the purposes of ordinary communication. The letter (lit. "book") which contained Uriah's death-warrant was written by David, and must have been intended for the eye of Joab alone, who was therefore able to read writing, and probably to write himself, though his message to the king, conveying the intelligence of Uriah's death, was a verbal one (2Sa 11:14-15). If we examine the instances in which writing is mentioned in connection with individuals, we shall find that in all cases the writers were men of superior position. In the Pentateuch the knowledge of the art is attributed to Moses, Joshua, and the priest alone. Samuel, who was educated by the high-priest, is mentioned as one of the earliest historians (1Ch 29:29), as well as Nathan the prophet (2Ch 9:29), Shemaiah the prophet, Iddo the seer (2Ch 12:15; 2Ch 13:22), and Jehu the son of Hanani (20:34). Letters. were written by Jezebel in the name of Ahab and sealed with his seal (1Ki 21:8-9,11); by Jehu (2Ki 11:6); by Hezekiah (2Ch 29:1); by Rabshakeh the Assyrian general (32:17); by the Persian satraps (Ezr 4:6-8); by Sanballat (Ne 6:5), Tobiah (6:19), Haman (Es 8:5), Mordecai and Esther (Es 9:29). The prophet Elijah wrote to Ahab (2Ch 21:2); Isaiah wrote some of the history of his time (26:22); Jeremiah committed his prophecies to writing (Jer 51:60), sometimes by the help of Baruch the scribe (36:4, 32); and the false prophet, Shemaiah the Nehelamite, endeavored to undermine Jeremiah's influence by the letters which he wrote to the high- priest (Jer 29:25). In Isa 29:11-12, there is clearly a distinction drawn between the man who was able to read and the man who was not, and it seems a natural inference from what has been said that the accomplishments of reading and writing were not widely spread among the people, when we find that they are universally attributed to those of high rank or education, kings, priests, prophets, and professional scribes.
In addition to these instances in which writing is directly mentioned, an indirect allusion to its early existence is supposed to be found in the name of certain officers of the Hebrews in Egypt, שֹׁטרַי, shoterim, Sept. γραμματεῖς (Ex 5:6, A. V. "officers"). The root of this word has been sought in the Arabic satara, "to write," and its original meaning is believed to be "writers," or "scribes;" an explanation adopted by Gesenius in his Lexicon Hebraicum and Thesaurus, though he rejected it in his Geschichte der Hebrdaischen Sprache und Schrift. In the name Kirjath- Sepher (Booktown, Jos 15:15) the indication of a knowledge of writing among the Phoenicians is more distinct. Hitzig conjectures that the town may have derived its name from the discovery of the art, for the Hittites, a Canaanitish, race, inhabited that region, and the term Hittite may possibly have its root in the Arabic chattfa "to write." The Hebrews, then, a branch of the great Shemitic family, being in possession of the art of writing, according to their own historical records, at a very early period, the further questions arise, what character they made use of, and whence they obtained it. It is scarcely possible in the present day to believe that, two centuries ago, learned men of sober judgment seriously maintained, almost as an article of faith, that the square character, as it is known to us, with the vowel points and accents, was a direct revelation from heaven, and that the commandments were written by the finger of God upon the tables of stone in that character. Such, however, was really the case. But recent investigations have shown that, so far from the square character having any claim to such a remote antiquity and such an august parentage, it is of comparatively modern date, and has been formed from a more ancient type by a gradual process of development; the steps of which may approximately be indicated. What, then, was this ancient type? Most probably the Phoenician. To the Phoenicians, the daring seamen and adventurous colonizers of the ancient world, tradition assigned the honor of the invention of letters (Pliny, 5, 12). This tradition may be of no value as direct evidence, but as it probably originated with the Greeks, it shows that, to them at, least, the Phoenicians were the inventors of letters, in that these were introduced into Europe by means of that intercourse with Phoenicia which is implied in the legend of Cadmus, the man of the East. The Phoenician companions of this hero, according to Herodotus (5, 58), taught the Greeks many accomplishments, and among others the use of letters, which hitherto they had not possessed. So Lucan, Phars. 3, 220:
"Phoenices primi, fame' si credimus, nausi Mansuram rudibus vocem signare figuris."
Pliny (7, 56) was of opinion that lettersi were of Assyrian origin, but he mentions as a belief held by others that they were discovered among the Egyptians by Mercury, or that the Syrians had the honor of the invention. The last-mentioned theory is that given by Diodorus Siculus (5, 74), who says that the Syrians innvented letters, and from them the Phoenicians, having learned them, transferred them to the Greeks. On the other hand, according to Tacitus (Ann. 11:14), Egypt was believed to be the source whence the Phoenicians derived their knowledge. Be this as it may, the voice of tradition represents the Phoenicians as the disseminators, if not the inventors of the alphabet. Whether it came to them from an Aramaean or Egyptian source can at best be but the subject of conjecture. It may, however, be reasonably inferred that the ancient Hebrews derived from, or shared with, the Phoenicians the knowledge of writing and the use of letters. The two nations spoke languages of the same Shemitic family; they were brought into close contact by geographical position; all circumstances combine to render it probable that the ancient Hebrew alphabet was the common possession both of Hebrews and Phoenicians, and this probability is strengthened by the results of modern investigation into the Phoenician inscriptions which have of late years been brought to light. The names of the Hebrew letters indicate that they must have been the invention of a Shemitic people, and that they were moreover a pastoral people may be inferred from the same evidence. Such names as Aleph (an ox), Gimel (a camel), Lamed (an ox-goad), are most naturally explained by this hypothesis, which necessarily excludes the seafaring Phoenicians from any claim to their invention. If, as has been conjectured, they took the first idea of writing from the Egyptians, they would at least have given to the signs which they invented the names of objects with which they themselves were familiar. So far from this being the case, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet contain no trace whatever of ships or seafaring matters; on the contrary, they point distinctly to an inland and pastoral people. The Shemitic and Egyptian alphabets have this principle in common, that the object whose name is given to a letter was taken originally to indicate the letter which begins the name; but this fact alone is insufficient to show that the Shemitic races borrowed their alphabet from Egypt, or that the principle thus held in common may not have been the possession of other nations of a still earlier date than the Egyptians. "The phonetic use of hieroglyphics," says Mr. Kenrick, "would naturally suggest to a practical people, such as the, Phoenicians were, a simplification of the cumbrous system of the Egyptians, by dispensing altogether with the pictorial and symbolical luse, and assigning one character to each sound, instead of the multitude of homophones which made the reading of the hieroglyphics so difficult; the residence of the 'Phoenician shepherds,' the Hyksos, in Egypt might afford an opportunity for this adaptation, or it might be brought about by commercial intercourse. We cannot, however, trace such a resemblance between the earliest Phoenician alphabet known to us, and the phonetic characters of Egypt, as to give any certainty to this conclusion" (Phoenicia, p. 164, 165)
There were three kinds of writing practiced in Egypt: 1st. The hieroglyphical, or sacred sculptured characters; 2d. The hieratic, or sacerdotal, which. was abbreviated; 3d. The demotic, or enchorial, which became the hand in general use. Lipsius, in The Annals of Archceological Correspondence (Rome, 1837), maintains that the Egyptians had two colloquial dialects in use, which were very distinct; the classical or sacerdotal, and the popular. The sacred, or hieroglyphic writing, as well as the hieratic of all ages, presents the former, while the demotic presents the common dialect. Wilkinson thinks the hieroglyphical was the sole mode of writing in the more ancient times, yet allows the hieratic to have been employed in remote ages; but if M. Prisse's discovery be true, of a papyrus said to be written in the reign of an hitherto unknown king in the first Memphitic dynasty, and in the hieratic character, its extreme antiquity will be found coeval with the hieroglyphical. "In Egypt nothing was done without writing. Scribes were employed on all occasions, whether to settle public or private questions, and no bargain of any consequence was made without the voucher of a written document "(Wilkinson, 1, 183). On a tomb said to have been built about the time the Pyramids were erected, is seen the representation of a steward giving an account of the number of his master's flocks and herds (4, 131). The scribes and stewards, who were employed in domestic suits, conveyancing and farming, could not have used the sacred characters for their affairs, nor could. they have been understood by the people generally if they had; it may, therefore, be concluded that the enchorial writing was that in popular practice.
II. Writing materials, etc. — The oldest documents which contain the writing of a Shemitic race are probably the bricks of Nineveh and Babylon: on which are impressed the cuneiform Assyrian inscriptions. Inscribed bricks are mentioned by Pliny (7, 56) as used for astronomical observations by the Babylonians. There is however, no evidence that they were ever employed by the Hebrews (the case of Eze 4:1; is evidently an exception), who certainly at a very early period practiced the more difficult but not more durable method of writing on, stone (Ex 24:12; Ex 31:18; Ex 32:15; Ex 34:1,28; De 10:1; De 27:1; Jos 8:32), on which inscriptions were cut with an iron graver (Job 19:24; Jer 17:1). They were, moreover, acquainted with the art of engraving upon metal (Ex 28:36) and gems (28:9). Wood was used upon some occasions (Nu 17:3; comp. Homer, Iliad, 7:175), and writing- tablets of boxwood are mentioned in 2 Esdras 14:24. The "lead," to which allusion is made in Job 19:24, is supposed to have been poured when melted into the cavities of the stone made by the letters of an inscription, in order to render it durable, and does not appear ever to have been used by the Hebrews as a writing material, like the χάρται μολύβδινοι at Thebes, on which were written Hesiod's Works and Days (Pausanius, 9:31, 4; comp. Pliny, 13:21). Copper was used for the same purpose. M. Botta found traces of it in letters on the pavement slabs of Khorsabad (Layard, Nineveh, 3, 188). Inscriptions and documents which were intended to be permanent were written on tablets of brass (1 Maccabees 8:22; 14:27), but from the manner in which they are mentioned it is clear that their use was exceptional.
It is probable that the most ancient as well as the most common material which the Hebrews used for writing was dressed skin in some form or other. We know that the dressing of skins was practiced by the Hebrews (Ex 25:5; Le 13:48), and they may have acquired the knowledge of the art from the Egyptians, among whom it had attained great perfection, the leather-cutters constituting one of the principal subdivisions of the third caste. "The fineness of the leather," says Sir G. Wilkinson, employed for making the straps placed across the bodies of mummies discovered at Thebes, and the beauty of the figures stamped- upon them, satisfactorily prove the skill of the leather-cutters,' and the antiquity of embossing some of these bearing the names of kings who ruled Egypt about the period of the Exodus, or 3300 years ago" (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. iii, 155).: Perhaps the Hebrews may have borrowed, among their other acquirements, the use of papyrus from the Egyptians, but of this we have no positive evidence. Papyri are found of the most remote Pharaonic age (ibid. 148), so that Pliny is undoubtedly in error when he says that the papyrus was not used as a writing material before the time of Alexander the Great (13, 21). He probably intended to indicate that this was the date of its introduction into Europe. In the Bible the only allusions to the use of papyrus are in 2 John, 12, where χάρτης occlrs, which refers especially to papyrus paper, and 3 Maccabees 4:20, where χαρτήρια is found in the same sense. In Josephus (Ant. iii, 11, 6) the trial of adultery is made by writing the name of God on a skin, and the seventy men who were sent to Ptolemy from Jerusalem by the high-priest Eleazar, to translate the Law into Greek, took with them the skins on which the Law was written in golden characters (Ant. 12:2, 10). The oldest Persian annals were written on skins (Diod. Sic. ii, 32), and these appear to have been most frequently used by the Shemitic races, if not peculiar to them. Of the byssus, which was used in India before the time of Alexander (Strabo, 15. 717), and the palm-leaves mentioned by Pliny (7, 23) there is no trace among the Hebrews, although we know-that the Arabs wrote their earliest copies of the Koran upon the roughest materials, as stones, the shoulder- bones of sheep, and palm leaves (De Sacy, Mlen. de l'Acad. des In-script. 1, 307). Herodotus, after telling us that the Ionians learned the art, of writing from. the Phoenicians, adds that they called their books skins (τὰς βίβλους διφθέρας), because they made use of sheep-skins and goat-skins when short of paper (βίβλος). Among the Cyprians, a writing-master was called διφθεράλοιφος. Parchiment was used for the MSS. of the Pentateuch in the time of Josephus and the μεμβράναι of 2Ti 4:13, were skins of parchment. It was one of the provisions in the Talmud that the Law should be written on the skins of clean animals, tame or wild, or even of clean, birds. There are three kinds of skins distinguished, on which the roll of the Pentateuch may be written: 1. קֵלֶŠ, keleph (Meg. ii, 2; Shabb. 8:3); 2. דוכסוסטוס= διχαστός or δίξεστος; and 3. גּוַיל, gevil. The last is made of the undivided skin, after the hair is removed and it has been properly dressed. For the other two the skin was split. The part with the hairy side was called klekph, and was used for the tephillin or phylacteries; and upon the other (דוכס8 8) the mezuzoth were written (Maimonides, Hilc. Tephil.). The skins when written upon were formed into rolls (מגַלּוֹת, megilloth; Ps 40:8; comp. Isa 34:4; Jer 36:14; Eze 2:9; Zec 5:1). They were rolled upon one or two sticks and fastened with a thread, the ends of which were sealed. (Isa 29:11; Da 12:4; Re 5:1, etc.). Hence the words גָּלִל, galdl (εἱλίσσειν), to roll up (Isa 34:4; Re 6:14), and פָּרִשׂ, pards (ἀναπτύσσειν), to unroll (2Ki 19:14; Lu 4:17), are used of the closing and opening of a book. The rolls were generally written on one side only, ex-cept in Eze 2:9; Re 5:1. They were divided into columns (דּלָתוֹת. delatohth, lit. "doors," A. V. "leaves," Jer 26:23); the upper margin was to be not less than three fingers broad, the lower not less than four; and a space of two fingers breadth was to be left between every two columns (Wahner, Ant. Ebr-ceor. vol. I, sect. 1, cap. 45, § 337). In the Herculaneum rolls the columns are two fingers broad, and in the MSS. in the library at Stuttgart there are three columns on each side, each three inches broad, with an inch space between the columns, and margins of three inches wide (Leyrer in Herzog's Encyklop. "Schriftzeichen"). The case in which the rolls were kept was called τεῦχχος or θήκη, almudic כֵּרֶך, k-eek, or כִּרכָּא, karka. But besides skins, which were used for the more permanent kinds of writing, tablets of wood covered with wax (Lu 1:63, πινακίδια) served for the ordinary purposes of life. Several of these were fastened together and formed volumes (טומות=tomos).
Books were written upon with a pointed style (עֵט, et, Job 19:24), sometimes of iron (Ps 45:2; Jer 8:8; Jer 17:1). For harder materials a graver (חֶרֶט, cheret, Ex 32:4; Isa 8:1) was employed: the hard point was called צַפֹּרֶן, tsippo'en (Jer 17:1). For parchment or skins a reed was used (3Jo 1:13,3 Maccabees 4:20), and according to some the Law was to be written with nothing else (Wahner, § 334). The דַּיוֹ, deyo (Jer 36:18), literally "black," like the Greek μέλαν (2Co 3:3; 2Jo 1:12; 3Jo 1:13), was to be of lamp-black dissolved in gall juice, though sometimes a mixture of gall juice and vitriol was allowable (Wahner, § 335). It was carried in an inkstand (קֵסֵת הִסֹּפֵר, keseih has-sopher), which was suspended at the girdle '(Eze 9:2-3), as is done at the present day in the East. The modern scribes "have an apparatus consisting of a metal or ebony tube for their reed pens, with a cup or bulb of the same material, attached to the upper end, for the ink. This they thrust through the girdle, and carry with them at all times" (Thomson, Lannd and Book, 1, 188). Such a case for holding pens, ink, and other materials for writing is called in the Mishna קִלמָרַין, kalmadrin, or קֵלמִריוֹן, kalmaryan (calamar-iumn; Mishna, Celim, 2, 7; Mikv. 10: 1), while תּרוֹנתֵּק, terontek (Mishna, Celim, 16:8), is a case for carrying pens, penknife, style, and other implements of the writer's art. To professional scribes there are allusions in Ps 45:1 ; Ezr 7:6; Ezr 2 Esdras 14:24. In the language of the Talmud these are called לִבלָרַין, lablarbizn, which is a modification of the Latin libellarii (Shabb. fol. 16, 1). SEE LETTERS.