We are creatures of flesh and bone as well as mind and spirit.
There are some things that we cannot be fully understand through the detached intellect--they require action and motion. One of these is:


We are not talking about the way of the scribes mentioned in the New Testament--those Scribes and Pharisees are held up as the epitome of hypocrisy and misguided religion. We are talking about the countless faithful, dedicated scribes (Hebrews and Gentiles) whom we can thank for preserving to us the Old and New Testament Scriptures by manual copying through the centuries. So what is it like to be a scribe? Most of us Moderns probably would think that being a scribe is a pretty routine, no, a drudgerous, job--at best an unpleasant way to make a living performing a once useful function. Is that the whole truth? If you ever get a chance to learn about the Jewish scribes who in the past (and still today) hand-write on parchment each and every "real" Torah used in Jewish Synagogues, take the opportunity to learn about it. It is an occupation dominated by traditions which govern every aspect of the work. The outward and inward preparation, the materials and the methods--all aimed at a serious work: the absolutely perfect copying of the Holy Scriptures. It is a fascinating tradition, but is that all it is--a kind of dead, mostly legalistic tradition?


I stumbled onto something when I was a young Christian that suggests it can be something more (to the scribe) if one avoids the pitfalls of dead tradition and legalism. I was doing a lot of topical Bible studies and I wanted to record the work so that I could refer back to it. This was in the days before desktop computers were common and I was a terrible typist and my typewriter was broken so I took to writing the verses out longhand. It was no good to just write down the references--it was too slow to look them up every time I wanted to review the topic--so the verses were written out in full. I wrote up the verses whenever I would stumble across Bible passages of interest while reading or while studying with a concordance. There were so many interesting topics suggested by the issues of life that I started pages with one topic each and added to them as I found the material.

This fell into a natural pattern: Write a title on the top of the page that captured the pith of the subject and was easy to remember. Then write down the verses in the order I found them or remembered them or slightly organized them. I used lined school paper--three hole punched-- in a cardstock cover and a cheap metal binding so I could carry it with me. Each entry consisted of the verse reference first, then the text. In multi-verse passages I numbered each verse in superscripts at the start of the verse (excluding the verse immediately after the reference). I used whatever translation seemed the best--usually RSV which has a comfortable, memorable and natural wording, or NAS when I wanted a very precise wordings, or KJV for the most familiar verses or sometimes a Greek text and (interlinear) literal translation.


1. A scribe of the Scriptures cannot help but fall in love with the Scriptures. Psalm 119:97 Oh, how I love thy law! In it I meditate day and night!
2. A scribe will develop respect for the Scriptures and respect for God. Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
3. A scribe will learn the meaning of verbal inspiration from a ground level up--every word is perfect, even in a translation they interlock with each other to form a seamless whole that reflects both the humanity of the human writer AND the perfect wisdom of God who breathed into them His words. Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple
4. A scribe must be patient and steady. Writing is a slow and methodical--and peaceful--activity. Psalm 46:10a "Be still, and know that I am God. "
5. A scribe has to dwell on each word for a few seconds as he writes them--and as he writes he inevitably thinks more deeply about the words than he does when merely reading them. Psalm 1:2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
6. A scribe will develop a sense that the Scriptures he copies are his own--and cannot be taken away from him. He has eaten them and digested them and made them his own in the act of writing them down. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!

7. The scribe learns that many passages have a great depth of meaning that tends to often be passed over. This depth of meaning is such that the mere quoting of these verses or phrases becomes a weighty argument or profession in itself (no commentary needed). And marvelously, the scribe detects in the writings and speech of other Christians signs that they understand these words in the same way. It magnifies the scribe's joy to thus experience the communion of the one Holy Christian Church. This is particularly wonderful when the other is the apostle Paul or Daniel or Solomon, or a Psalmist, or the writer to the Hebrews, etc.. 1 Corinthians 15:55 "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his holy ones.

Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Daniel 9:18 O my God, incline thy ear and hear; open thy eyes and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name; for we do not present our supplications before thee on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of thy great mercy.

Hebrews 3:15 ... it is said, "Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

8. A scribe writing in English learns that the Scriptures were not written in English and so there can be no chosen, perfect English translation. Being a scribe in English translations is not like being a scribe of Hebrew or Greek, where I imagine a worthy scribe could not give himself any latitude to alter even one jot or tittle. Matthew 5:18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
9. A scribe develops an appreciation of the differences between translations and develops preferences for the best wording of each. 1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
10. A scribe begins to see how a translator thinks. I had studied Koiné Greek and now I saw better how different translators each sought to balance every subtlety and nuance to capture the sense of the original. Hosea 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
11. The scribe comes to appreciate the translators art--the beauty and faithfulness (and occasionally the weaknesses) of the translator's renderings. John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."
12. A scribe of translations who is careful and respectful will gravitate to the best translation for each verse--even to the point of switching translations from passage to passage, verse to verse, or word to word. 1 Corinthians 2:15 The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!

13. In some cases the scribe may render a passage in words that do not come from a specific translation, but which are apt. The more the scribe makes the Scriptures his own, the more he can do this--always rejecting utterly the desire to put his own "spin" on the Holy Word of God.

For example: I often render the tetragrammaton (the name of God in Hebrew, rendered as "the LORD" in most translations) as "Jehovah."

Great caution and wisdom is required to not abuse this privilege with "private interpretations." But we have such wisdom and such freedom in Christ!

2 Peter 1:20-21 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of a prudent man is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Corinthians 4:2 We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

14. A scribe eventually understands why the Old Testament quoted by the New Testament writers often follow neither the exact Hebrew text nor the popular translation of the day, the Septuagint. For the scribe learns that the Scriptures remembered behave differently than the Scriptures in print---they naturally settle themselves in the mind according to their own pattern and when brought forth again, particularly in a situation that calls for a particular emphasis, the Scriptures naturally tailor themselves to the purpose at hand. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
15. A scribe comes to know that in learning the Scriptures, he is learning all things from the very mouth of God. John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.

A Caveat and Warning

Some may be uncomfortable with what appears to be the "taking of liberties" with the Scriptures that I describe. Such a concern is entirely justified. I too warn everyone in the strongest possible terms (God will be your judge!) against any abuses stemming from PRESUMPTION--that is, from presuming to LORD IT OVER THE SCRIPTURES--may it never be.

What I AM trying to say is this--the word by word study of the Scriptures (as a scribe) itself can promote wisdom and boldness to rightly divide the word of Truth. To say it another way, anyone who studies the Scriptures soberly under the authority of his pastor and under sound teachers and who by God's grace develops spiritual discernment should not be afraid to render the Scriptures in the best words he knows--always being regulated by the Scriptures themselves and always careful not to stray outside of the bounds of his own competence.

Some are not be cut out for this. If one regularly "finds" strange and novel interpretations in the Holy Writ, that is a warning sign--back off and stick with the translations and interpretations of those who are gifted in this area.

In any case, no one should innovate anything beyond the clear meaning of Scripture. Every person should stick with well established doctrine revealed in passages where the Scriptures have clearly interpreted in themselves.

If this interests you, try being a scribe for awhile and see where the Lord leads. He will always bless those who study His Word.

Philippians 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment ...

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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