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Hand-Copying Scripture

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“Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself” – Motto in the 1734 edition of the Greek New Testament.

One of God’s special requirements for the kings of Israel was that they would hand-copy Scripture.

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20.

Why did God want the kings to make copies of His Word? So it would be repeatedly read, continuously learned, and carefully obeyed.

It wasn’t only kings who hand-copied the Word. For the bigger chunk of human history, hand-copying Scripture was the way the Bible was passed on from generation to generation by literate people. Today the Scriptures are available in printed or electronic forms. So hand-copying Scripture isn’t usually done to pass the Bible on in a written form. But it is done to help us draw closer to Jesus.

The method for hand-copying Scripture is straightforward:

  • Begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word
  • Select a text, preferably a whole book that’s copied over several days or weeks
  • Write slowly and carefully. Check and double-check each word or phrase before writing it down
  • Savour every word as you write it. Aim not to get the writing done, but to connect with Jesus
  • Remember that you’re copying the living Word
  • Read what you’ve written, and listen to hear from God
  • Pray back to God, word for word, thought by thought, or thematically, the Scriptures that you’ve written down

When a king hand-copied Scripture he benefitted through growth in humility and reverence, hearing the Holy Spirit speak to him through the Word, enjoying good health (cf. Proverbs 4:20-22) and long life, renewing of his mind, and drawing closer to God.

The same benefits are available to us when we hand-copy Scripture.

Other advantages to hand-copying Scripture include:

  • Fosters a deeper appreciation for God’s Word
  • Quietens the mind and soul
  • Enables one to slow down and reflect on the Word
  • Facilitates a deeper contemplation of the Word
  • Connects us to the desires of the heart
  • Aids in memorization of the Word
  • Creates opportunities for inspiration
  • Invites responsibility and accountability
  • Provides occasions for creative penmanship and calligraphy
  • Helps us not become proud or arrogant
  • Personalizes the Word
  • Brings details and nuances to light that are often missed when the Scriptures are only read
  • Reminds us that while the Word has a physical beginning and end, spiritually it has no boundaries

It’s interesting to note that the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in the brain is engaged by handwriting. The benefit of engaging the RAS is that this part of the brain helps us pay attention and retain information.

When we interact and invest ourselves in the Word through hand-copying Scripture, it has life-changing and lasting significance. In a world that seems to be more and more frenetic; hand-copying Scripture helps us be still and know that God is God (cf. Psalm 46:10), deepens our faith, and enables us to leave a legacy for generations to come.

If hand-copying Scripture was good for kings, it’s good for us. That’s because we’re kings too (Revelation 1:6)! So as we reign with Jesus (cf. Romans 5:17), let’s copy the Scriptures and thereby make sure we’re repeatedly reading, continuously learning, and carefully obeying the Word.

[Check out The Saint John’s Bible – a handwritten illuminated Bible]

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5

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2 thoughts on “Hand-Copying Scripture

  1. If no objection, would like to use this on my blog (with appropriate acknowledgement, of course!).

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