The art of writing must have been known in the time of the early Pharaohs. Moses is commanded "to write for a memorial in a book" (Ex 17:14) a record of the attack of Amalek. Frequent mention is afterwards made of writing (28/11/type/hcsb'>Ex 28:11,21,29,36; 31:18; 32:15-16; 34:1,28; 39:6,14,30). The origin of this art is unknown, but there is reason to conclude that in the age of Moses it was well known. The inspired books of Moses are the most ancient extant writings, although there are written monuments as old as about B.C. 2000. The words expressive of "writing," "book," and "ink," are common to all the branches or dialects of the Semitic language, and hence it has been concluded that this art must have been known to the earliest Semites before they separated into their various tribes, and nations, and families.
The Old Testament and the discoveries of Oriental archaeology alike tell us that the age of the Exodus was throughout the world of Western Asia an age of literature and books, of readers and writers, and that the cities of Palestine were stored with the contemporaneous records of past events inscribed on imperishable clay. They further tell us that the kinsfolk and neighbours of the Israelites were already acquainted with alphabetic writing, that the wanderers in the desert and the tribes of Edom were in contact with the cultured scribes and traders of Ma'in [Southern Arabia], and that the 'house of bondage' from which Israel had escaped was a land where the art of writing was blazoned not only on the temples of the gods, but also on the dwellings of the rich and powerful., Sayce. (See Debir; Phoenicia.)
The "Book of the Dead" was a collection of prayers and formulae, by the use of which the souls of the dead were supposed to attain to rest and peace in the next world. It was composed at various periods from the earliest time to the Persian conquest. It affords an interesting glimpse into the religious life and system of belief among the ancient Egyptians. We learn from it that they believed in the existence of one Supreme Being, the immortality of the soul, judgement after death, and the resurrection of the body. It shows, too, a high state of literary activity in Egypt in the time of Moses. It refers to extensive libraries then existing. That of Ramessium, in Thebes, e.g., built by Rameses II., contained 20,000 books.
When the Hebrews entered Canaan it is evident that the art of writing was known to the original inhabitants, as appears, e.g., from the name of the city Debir having been at first Kirjath-sepher, i.e., the "city of the book," or the "book town" (Jos 10:38; 15:15; Jg 1:11).
Egyptian Hieroglyphics are as old as the earliest monuments centuries before Moses. (See HIEROGLYPHICS; PENTATEUCH.) The Rosetta stone, containing a decree on Ptolemy Epiphanes in hieroglyphics, with a Greek translation alongside, furnished the key to their decipherment. Champollion further advanced the interpretation of hieroglyphics by means of the small obelisk found in the island of Philae by Belzoni, and brought to England by Bankes. The inscription in Greek on the base is a supplication of the priests of Isis to king Ptolemy, to Cleopatra his sister, and Cleopatra his wife. The name Ptolemy in the hieroglyphic cartouche on the obelisk itself corresponds to the Greek Ptolemy on the base and also to the similar cartouche on the Rosetta stone. Comparison of this with the cartouche which was guessed from the corresponding Greek on the base to be that for Cleopatra resulted in the discovery of several letters.
The first letter in Ptolemeus and the fifth in Cleopatra are P. So the first character in the cartouche I and the fifth in II are a square. This then represents P. The third letter in Ptolemeus and the fourth in Cleopatra are O. The respective characters in the cartouches are the same; a knotted cord therefore represents O. The fourth in Ptolemy and the second in Cleopatra are both L; so the characters in the cartouches, the lion therefore represents L. The sixth and ninth letters in Cleopatra are both A, so the sixth and ninth characters in the cartouches are both a sparrowhawk; this then represents A. The first letter in Cleopatra, C or K, is not in Ptolemy, so neither is the first character of the Cleopatra cartouche in the Ptolemy cartouche; the triangular block therefore is C or K. The third character in the Cleopatra cartouche is a Nile reed blade, but the sixth in the Ptolemy cartouche is two such blades, therefore the single blade represents the short "e", third in Cleopatra; the two reeds represent the long "e", sixth in Ptolemeus, omitting "e" after "L."
Champollion therefore put down the fifth character in Ptolemeus a boat stand, and the seventh, a yoke, for S. Other names verified these two letters. Thus the whole name in hieroglyphics is Ptolmes. The eighth letter in Cleopatra is R, which does not occur in Ptolemy, so the character is not found in the Ptolemy cartouche; a human mouth therefore represents R. The second letter in Ptolemy and the seventh in Cleopatra are both T, but the characters in the cartouches differ; a half sphere in Ptolemy, a hand in Cleopatra. Hence it results that the same sound has more than one representative; these are called homophones, and cause some confusion in reading. (See "Israel in Egypt": Seeley, 1854.) The following shows the Phonetic Letters of the Hieroglyphical Alphabet of Egypt, with their equivalents, according to M. de Ronge, Lepsius, and Brugsch. (See Canon Cook's Essay on Egyptian words in the Pentateuch, vol. 1, Speaker's Commentary)
Champollion was able to read upon the Zodiac of Dendera the titles of Augustus Caesar, confuting Dupuis' "demonstration" that its date was 4000 B.C.! The traditions of Greece point to Phoenicia as its teacher of writing. The names and order of the Greek alphabetical letters are Semitic, and have a meaning in Semitic but none in Greek. Thus, 'Aleph (?), representing a means an ox. Bet[h] (?), a house. Gimel (?), a camel, etc. All indicate that a pastoral people were the originators of the alphabet. In an Egyptian monument a Hittite is named as a writer. Pentaour, a scribe of the reign of Rameses the Great soon after the Exodus, composed a poem, engraved on the walls of the temple of Karnak. This mentions Chirapsar among the Kheta (i.e. the Hittites) as a writer of books. So Joshua took a Hittite city, Kirjath Sepher, "city of the book" (Jos 15:15); he changed the name to Debir, of similar meaning.
The words for "write" (kathab), "book" (ceepher), "ink" (deyo), belong to all Semitic dialects (except the Ethiopic and southern Arabic tsachaq "write"); therefore writing in a book with ink must have been known to the earliest Shemites before their separation into distinct clans and nations. Israel evidently knew it long before Moses. Writing is definitely mentioned first in Ex 17:14; but in such a way as to imply it had been long in use for historic records, "write this for a memorial in the (Hebrew) book." The account of the battle and of the command to destroy Amalek was recorded in the book of the history of God's dealings with Israel (compare Nu 21:14, "the book of the wars of the Lord," Nu 33:2. Also God's memorial book, Ex 32:32-33). Writing was however for many centuries more used for preserving than circulating knowledge.
The tables of stone written by the finger of God were laid up in the ark. The tables, as well as the writing, were God's work. The writing was engraved (charut) upon them on both sides. The miracle was intended to indicate the imperishable duration of these words of God. Moses' song (Deuteronomy 32) was not circulated in writing, but "spoken in the ears of the people" (De 31:19,22-30); and by word of mouth they too were to transmit it to others. The high priest's breast-plate was engraven, and his mitre too, "holiness to the Lord" (Ex 39:14,30). Under Joshua (Ex 18:9) only one new document is mentioned, a geographical division of the land. In Jg 5:14 Zebulun is described as having "marchers with the staff of the writer" (copeer) or musterer of the troops; such as are frequently pourtrayed on the Assyrian monuments (2Ki 25:19; 2Ch 26:11, "the scribe of the host".)
The scribe and the recorder (mazkir) were regular officers of the king (2Sa 8:17; 20:25). In Isa 29:11-12, the multitude have to go to one "knowing writing" (Hebrew for "learned") in order to ascertain its contents; so by that time there were some at least learned in writing. By the time of Jeremiah letters are mentioned more frequently, and copies of Scripture had multiplied (Jer 8:8; 29:25,29). The commercial and other tablets now discovered prove this. Under the ancient empire of Egypt the governor of the palace and of the "house of manuscripts" was a very high official. The tutelary god of writing was Saph or Sapheh (related to Hebrew ceper); a Pharaoh of the fifth dynasty is styled "beloved of Saph." (See ALPHABET on the Moabite stone, 896 B.C., bearing Hebrew words and idiom in Phoenician letters).
Rawlinson fixes the invention 15 centuries B.C. The earliest monuments of Babylon reach back to 2300 B.C.; the language inscribed on them is Cushite or Ethiopian, (See BABYLON.) The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters; this was their number as early at least as David, who has acrostic psalms with all the 22; moreover, the letters expressed numbers, as the Greek letters did. Besides alphabetic there is syllabic writing, as the Assyrian cuneiform, which has from 300 to 4,000 letters. The process of growth and change is shown by recent studies of the Assyrian language. "The words by which these (Assyrian hieroglyphics) were denoted in the Turanian language of the Accadian inventors of the cuneiform system of writing became phonetic sounds when it was borrowed by the Semitic Assyrians, though the characters could still be used ideographically, as well as phonetically.
When used ideographically, the pronunciation was of course that of the Assyrians." (Sayce's Assyrian Grammar.) Then to these original ideographs were added the formal parts expressive of case, pronominal, and other relations. The latest examples of cuneiform writing belong to the Arsacidae, in the century before Christ ("Academy," August, 1878). The square Hebrew characters now used came from Babylon probably after the Babylonian captivity, under Ezra. The Semitic alphabets have only consonants and three consonant-like vowels, 'Aleph (?), 'Ayin (?), Yod[h] (?), and are written from right to left. There are two chief classes.
(1) The Phoenician, as it occurs in inscriptions in Malta, the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar king of Sidon (600 B.C.), Cyprus, and coins of Phoenicia (from whence came the Samaritan and Greek characters); on Jewish coins; in Phoenician-Egyptian writing, with three vowels, on mummy bandages.
(2) The Hebr
The earliest intimation of writing in scripture is when Amalek was defeated, and it is significant that the first thing Moses was instructed to write, as far as is revealed, should be respecting judgement upon Amalek, an enemy of God's people: his remembrance was to be utterly put out from under heaven. Ex 17:14. This incident took place some 2500 years after the creation of Adam and we cannot suppose that there had not been writing before this. Moses was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and writing is found in or on all their ancient monuments.
Hales puts the date of Menes, the first king of Egypt, B.C. 2412, but even this is more than 1500 years from the creation. God created an intelligent man, and may have instructed him in the art of writing, as He surely also gave him a language by which He could Himself hold intercourse with him.
God brought the animal creation to Adam that he might name them and in them he had before him forms far more numerous than were needed for an alphabet, such as was adopted by the Egyptians long after. The Hebrew letters were originally symbolical, as some of their names infer: as aleph, an ox beth, a house; gimel, a camel; etc. For the earliest Egyptian letters derived from nature see the table below.
The Aztecs, who preceded the Mexicans, were able to record their laws, their ritual, and a complete system of chronology, etc. A Mexican MS looks like a collection of pictures, each a separate study. The Chinese, who profess to have had the art of writing from time immemorial, with endless genealogies, have kept their records in their 80,000 symbolical characters, to which there are 214 radical keys.
The history and book of Job is judged to have been quite early, and he speaks not only of writing, but of a book: "Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!" Job 19:23-24. This refers to his words being engraved on a rock and filled in with lead.
Engraving on stones was practised in ancient Egypt, a specimen of which may be seen on Cleopatra's Needle in London, on the banks of the Thames. Ancient engraving on stone has rendered service in modern times, as in the Rosetta Stone, the writing of which, being in Egyptian and Greek, gave the first key to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics. See also under MOAB, respecting the Moabite Stone.
In the Sinai peninsula there are many inscriptions cut in the rocks, which have never yet been satisfactorily explained. Some of them have been taken to be of Israelitish origin when Israel 'wandered' in those parts; others judge them to be simply the greetings and names of travellers; and others are of the opinion that Christian pilgrims wrote them, while some believe them to be of an earlier date than this and assign them to Pagan pilgrims to Serbal. Many of the inscriptions are in an Arabic dialect, but interspersed with rude engravings of horses, asses, dogs, and ibexes.
As already intimated, the Israelites may in the first instance have had a system of hieroglyphics, by means of which they (as did the Egyptians and others) recorded all necessary things. All existing alphabets have been traced by Gesenius to the Phoenician.
It is generally stated that the Phoenician alphabet was derived from the Egyptian Hieratic. From the Phoenician is traced the ancient Hebrew, thence the Samaritan, and thence the modern square Hebrew, as shown in the accompanying table.
The connection however between the Egyptian and the Phoenician alphabets is doubted by some. Dr. Poole, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, judges that if the latter had been derived from the former, their names would have described the original signs: whereas Aleph signifies an ox, not an eagle; Beth a house, not a bird; Gimel a camel, not a basket; and so on, as far as it is known, to the end.
It may be noticed that God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments on the stones that He gave to Moses, and He may have given the ancient Hebrew characters. It will be found that the whole Hebrew alphabet, except teth, is in those 'ten words.'
Writing was needed on other substances besides stones. When a man put away his wife he had to give her a"bill of divorcement." De 24:1. Papyrus was early used as paper, but being very fragile, it gave place to parchment and vellum, being written on with reeds. It is on the two latter that nearly all the ancient MSS of the scriptures have been preserved to this day. But the skins were expensive and could not be always obtained, which resulted in some of the copies of the New Testament being rubbed out, and something of much less importance being written on the same surface, as in the specimen here given. To enable such erased writing to be read, chemical means have to be resorted to. Such copies are called Palimpsests 'rubbed a second time,' or Rescripts.
This is part of the Codex Nitriensis, which contains large portions of Luke's Gospel, and dates from the sixth century. The original leaves have been folded in half, and then written over in Syriac (by Severus of Antioch against Grammaticus) in the ninth or tenth century. The specimen gives a portion of Lu 20:9-10.
Writing is such an abstruse thing that no barbarous people has been known to commence any system of writing before seeing specimens of this wonderful art. It is well known that a missionary once wrote on a piece of wood the name of a tool that he needed, and handed it to a chief, asking him to take it to his wife. He asked what he was to say. He was to say nothing; only take the wood. He took it and was amazed when the missionary's wife threw the wood away and gave him the tool. It was entirely beyond his comprehension that the marks on the piece of wood could convey a message. It was altogether a deep mystery: he hung the piece of wood round his neck, and could often be seen telling the wonderful thing it had done.
Yet we are so familiar with writing that we think it no mystery at all; still there are hidden intricacies in it. Our thoughts have to be expressed in words, our words are composed of letters; each of those letters has a distinct sound; and each sound needs some character to represent that sound, which must call forth the same sound, and rapidly form those sounds into words which again convey to the one who reads exactly the same thoughts that were passing through the mind of the writer. Is there no work of God in that?
Again, writing expresses decision and purpose. We may have many thoughts pass through our minds in a day, but none may need or deserve to be written. "It is written" implies a decision one has arrived at as an individual; or what has been recorded as an Act of Parliament; or much higher still, what God has been pleased to cause to be written as His revealed will in the holy writings, for which man can never be too grateful.
There is no account in the Bible of the origin of writing. That the Egyptians in the time of Joseph were acquainted with writing of a certain kind there is 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. Writing is first distinctly mentioned in
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. It is not absolutely necessary to infer from this that the art of writing was an accomplishment possessed by every Hebrew citizen. 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
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 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 the name Kirjathsepher (book-town),
there is an indication of a knowledge of writing among the Phoenicians. The Hebrews, then, a branch of the great Semitic 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. Recent investigations have shown that the square Hebrew character is of comparatively modern date, and has been formed from a more ancient type by a gradual process of development. What then was this ancient type? Most probably the Phoenician. Pliny was of opinion that letters were of Assyrian origin. Dioderus Siculus (v. 74) says that the Syrians invented letters, and from them the Phoenicians, having learned them transferred them to the Greeks. According to Tacitus (Ann. xi. 14,, Egypt was believed to be the source whence the Phoenicians got their knowledge. Be this as it may, to the Phoenicians, the daring seamen and adventurous colonizers of the ancient world the voice of tradition has assigned the honor of the invention of letters. Whether it came to them from an Aramean or an Egyptian source can at best he 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 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. But whether or not the Phoenicians were the inventors of the Shemitic alphabet, there can be no doubt of their just claim to being its chief disseminators; and with this understanding we may accept the genealogy of alphabets as given by Gesenius, and exhibited in the accompanying table. The old Semitic alphabets may he divided into two principal classes:
1. The Phoenician as it exists in the inscriptions in Cyprus, Malta, Carpentras, and the coins of Phoenicia and her colonies. From it are derived the Samaritan and the Greek character.
2. The Hebrew-Chaldee character; to which belong the Hebrew square character; the which has some traces of a cursive hand; the Estrangelo, or ancient Syriac; and the ancient Arabic or Cufic. It was probably about the first or second century after Christ that the square character assumed its present form; though in a question involved in so much uncertainty it is impossible to pronounce with great positiveness. The alphabet. --The oldest evidence on the subject of the Hebrew alphabet is derived from the alphabetical psalms and poems: Psal 25,34,37,111,112,119,145;
From these we ascertain that the number of the letters was twenty-two, as at present. The Arabic alphabet originally consisted of the same number. It has been argued by many that the alphabet of the Phoenicians at first consisted of only sixteen letters. The legend, as told by Pliny (vii. 56), is as follows; Cadmus brought with him into Greece sixteen letters; at the time of the Trojan war Palamedes added four others, theta, epsilon, phi, chi, and Simonides of Melos four more dzeta, eta, psi, omega. Divisions of words. --Hebrew was originally written, like most ancient languages, without any divisions between the words. The same is the case with the Phoenician inscriptions, The various readings in the LXX. show that, at the version was made, in the Hebrew MSS. which the translators used the words were written in a continuous series. The modern synagogue rolls and the MSS. of the Samaritan Pentateuch have no vowel-points, but the words are divided, and the Samaritan in this respect differs hut little from the Hebrew. Writing materials, etc. --The oldest documents which contain the writing of a Semitic race are probably the bricks of Nineveh and Babylon, on which are impressed the cuneiform Syrian inscriptions. There is, however, no evidence that they were ever used by the Hebrews. It is highly probable that the 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,
and they may have acquired the knowledge of the art from the Egyptians, among whom if had attained great perfection, the leather-cutters constituting one of the principal subdivisions of the third caste. Perhaps the Hebrews may have borrowed among their either acquirements, the use of papyrus from the Egyptians, but of this we have no positive evidence. In the Bible the only allusions to the use of papyrus are in
where chartes (Authorized Version "paper") occurs, which refers especially to papyrus paper, and 3 Macc. 4:20, where charteria is found in the same sense. Herodotus, after telling us that the Ionians learned the art of writing from the Phoenicians, adds that they called their books skins, because they made use of sheep-skins and goat-skins when short of paper. Parchment was used for the MSS. of the Pentateuch in the time of Josephus, and the membranae of
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. The skins when written upon were formed into rolls (megilloth).
etc. The rolls were generally written on one side only, except in
They were divided into columns (Authorized Version "leaves,")
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. But besides skins, which were used for the more permanent kinds of writing, tablets of wood covered with wax,
served for the ordinary purposes of life. Several of these were fastened together and formed volumes. They were written upon with a pointed style,
sometimes of iron.
For harder materials a graver,
was employed. For parchment or skins a reed was used.
3 Macc. 5:20. The ink,
literally "black," like the Greek melan,
was of lampblack dissolved in gall-juice. It was carried in an inkstand which was suspended at the girdle,
as is done at the present day in the East. To professional scribes there are allusions in
2 Esdr. 14:24.
WRITING. In regard to alphabetic writing, all the ancient writers attribute the invention of it to some very early age, and some country of the east; but they do not pretend to designate precisely either the time or the place. They say, farther, that Cadmus introduced letters from Phenicia into Greece, if we may credit the Parisian Chronicle, B.C. 1519, that is, forty- five years after the death of Moses. Anticlides asserts, and attempts to prove, that letters were invented in Egypt fifteen years before Phoroneus, the most ancient king of Greece; that is, four hundred and nine years after the deluge, and in the one hundred and seventeenth year of Abraham. On this it may be remarked, that they might have been introduced into Egypt at this time, but they had been previously invented by the Phenicians. Epigenes, who, in the estimation of Pliny, is weighty authority, informs us that observations, made upon the heavenly bodies for seven hundred and twenty years at Babylon, were written down upon baked tiles; but Berosus and Critodemus, also referred to by Pliny, make the number of years four hundred and eighty. Pliny from these statements draws the conclusion that the use of letters, as he expresses it, must have been eternal, that is, beyond all records. Simplicius, who lived in the fifth century, states, on the authority of Porphyry, an acute historian, that Callisthenes, the companion of Alexander, found at Babylon a record of observations on the heavenly bodies for one thousand nine hundred and three years. Of course the record must have been begun B.C. 2234, that is, the eighty-ninth year of Abraham. This statement receives some confirmation from the fact that the month of March is called Adar in the Chaldaic dialect; and at the time mentioned, namely, the eighty-ninth year of Abraham, the sun, during the whole month of March, was in the sign of the zodiac called Aries, or the Ram. The word Adar means the same with Aries. But, as letters would be unquestionably first used for the purposes of general intercourse, they must have been known long before they were employed to transmit the motions of the stars. Of this we have an evidence in the bill of sale, which, as we have reason to suppose from the expressions used in Ge 23:20, was given to Abraham by the sons of Heth. Hence it is not at all wonderful that books and writings are spoken of in the time of Moses, as if well known, Ex 17:14; 24:4; 28:9-11; 32:32; 34:27-28; Nu 33:2; De 27:8. Nor is it a matter of surprise that long before his time there had been public scribes, who kept written genealogies: they were called by the Hebrews ??????, Ex 5:14; De 20:5-9. Even in the time of Jacob, seals, upon which names are engraved in the east, were in use, Ge 38:18; 41:42; which is another probable testimony to the great antiquity of letters.
Letters, which had thus become known at the earliest period, were communicated by means of the Phenician merchants and colonies, and subsequently by Egyptian emigrants, through all the east and the west. A strong evidence of this is to be found in the different alphabets themselves, which betray by their resemblance a common origin. That the posterity of the Hebrew patriarchs preserved a knowledge of alphabetical writing during their abode in Egypt, where essentially the same alphabet was in use, is evident from the fact, that the Hebrews while remaining there always had public genealogists. The law, also, was ordered to be inscribed on stones; a fact which implies a knowledge of alphabetical writing. The writing thus engraven upon stones is designated by its appropriate name, namely, ????, 32/16/type/hcsb'>Ex 32:16,32. Not a few of the Hebrews might be unable to read and write, Jg 8:14; but those who were capable of writing wrote for others, when necessary. Such persons were commonly priests, who, as they do to this day in the east, bear an inkhorn in their girdle, Eze 10:2-3,11. In the ink-horn were the materials for writing, and a knife for sharpening the pen, Jer 36:23. The rich and noble had scribes of their own, and readers also; whence there is more frequent mention made of hearing than of reading, 1Ki 4:3; 2Ki 12:10; Isa 29:18; Jer 36:4; Ro 2:13; Jas 5:11; Re 1:3. The scribes took youth under their care, who learned from them the art of writing. Some of the scribes seem to have held public schools for instruction; some of which, under the care of Samuel and other prophets, became in time quite illustrious, and were called the schools of the prophets, 1Sa 19:16, &c; 2Ki 2:3,5; 4:38; 6:1. The disciples in these schools were not children or boys, but young men, who inhabited separate edifices, as is the case in the Persian academies. They were taught music and singing, and without doubt writing also, the Mosaic law and poetry. They were denominated, in reference to their instructers, the sons of the prophets; teachers and prophets being sometimes called fathers. After the captivity there were schools for instruction either near the synagogues or in them.
The materials and instruments of writing were,
1. The leaves of trees.
2. The bark of trees, from which, in the process of time, a sort of paper was manufactured.
3. A table of wood, ?????, ???, De 9:9; Eze 37:5; Lu 1:63. In the east, these tables were not covered with wax as they were in the west; or at any rate very rarely so.
4. Linen was first used for the object in question at Rome. Linen books are mentioned by Livy. Cotton cloth also, which was used for the bandages of Egyptian mummies, and inscribed with hieroglyphics, was one of the materials for writing upon.
5. The paper made from the reed papyrus, which, as Pliny has shown, was used before the Trojan war.
6. The skins of various animals; but they were poorly prepared for the purpose, until some improved methods of manufacture were invented at Pergamus, during the reign of Eumenes, about B.C. 300. Hence the skins of animals, prepared for writing, are called in Latin pergamena, in English parchment, to this day, from the city Pergamus. They are sometimes denominated in Greek, ????????, 2Ti 4:13.
7. Tables of lead, ????, Job 19:24.
8. Tables of brass, ?????? ??????. Of all the materials, brass was considered among the most durable, and was employed for those inscriptions which were designed to last the longest, 1 Macc. 8:22; 14:20- 27.
10. Tiles. The inscriptions were made upon the tiles first, and afterward they were baked in the fire. They are yet to be found in the ruins of Babylon; others of later origin are to be found in many countries in the east. 11. The sand of the earth, in which the children in India to this day learn the art of writing, and in which Archimedes himself delineated his mathematical figures, Joh 8:1-8. If in Eze 3:1, and in Re 10:9, we are informed that books were eaten, we must remember that the descriptions are figurative, and that they were eaten in vision; and consequently we are not at liberty to draw the conclusion from these passages, that any substance was used as materials for writing upon, which was at the same time used for food. The representations alluded to are symbolic, introduced to denote a communication or revelation from God.
As to the instruments used in writing, when it was necessary to write upon hard materials, as tables of stone and brass, the style was made of iron, and sometimes tipped with diamond, Jeremiah 17.
1. The letters were formed upon tablets of wood, (when they were covered with wax,) with a style sharpened at one end, broad and smooth at the other; by means of which the letters, when badly written, might be rubbed out and the wax smoothed down.
2. Wax, however, was but rarely used for the purpose of covering writing tables in warm regions. When this was not the case, the letters were painted on the wood with black tincture or ink.
3. On linen, cotton cloth, paper, skins, and parchment, the letters were painted with a very small brush, afterward with a reed, which was split. The orientals use this elegant instrument to