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Discovery Magazine 2/1/2014

The Work of Scribes

In the New Testament you often read about a group of people called scribes. What was a scribe? Many years ago, the printing press or the computer had not been invented. Writing was done by hand. If a person wrote a book, how could copies be produced? Someone had to sit down and copy the original by hand. Such a person was called a scribe. Scribes copied almost any type of document imaginable—business receipts, legal documents, marriage certificates, and much more.

Scribes took their jobs very seriously because the slightest mistake could make a big difference. For instance, suppose a person bought a piece of land for 30 gold pieces. If the scribe did not pay close attention to his work, he might write 3 gold pieces or 300 gold pieces, drastically altering the original price.

There was one group of scribes known as the Masoretes whose job was to make copies of the books of the Old Testament. They took their job very seriously. They used special kinds of ink, counted every word, and knew exactly which word and letter should be in the middle of the book they were copying. Many of the copies of both the Old and New Testaments that are available today were copied by scribes.

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