A Word on the Word

March 28, 2006

Ben Witherington has some excellent observations about words on his blog. First he offers a poem he wrote and then some thoughts. Here are a few of the highlights from his explanation:

One of the more fascinating subjects to reflect on Biblically speaking is the theology of the Word. We are apt to see words as just combinations of letters or ciphers or symbols, but this is not how the ancients, living in an overwhelming oral culture, saw words. Words spoke things into existence if they came from God.

... In this poem I have tried to share some of the things about how the Word came to us through the hands of the ancient scribes, who had as their tools, a stylus, some water made black with soot, a papyrus roll, and a very steady hand and ability to take dictation on the fly. It is hard to even imagine how laborious it was where every single copy of every single page had to be hand-copied—word for word. If it was possible the scribe would use a wax tablet to copy the words first there, and then make a fair hand copy on a scroll since papyrus was quite expensive (as was hiring a scribe). Words took on almost a magical quality, especially religious or sacred ones, and especially the name of a Deity in such an oral culture.

... But it was the Christian theology that the sacred Word not only could create reality or come in person, it could also indwell and thus inspire ordinary mortals like me and you. In the end, there is no last word on the Word. There is far too much to unveil and to ponder.
Wow! There is a lot to take in there. Hopefully we will all gain a greater appreciation and reverence for the power of the Word.