The Cost of Scripture

Read this article on Mark Batterson’s blog.  It gives us an amazing picture of the price that has been paid to ensure that the Bible continues to go on.

Batterson writes, “As we kick off our Garden to City Bible reading challenge, we’re giving away free Bibles to anyone that doesn’t have one or can’t afford one. It’s the right thing to do, but honestly, I think it might be one reason why we don’t appreciate the Bible like we could or should.

In 301 AD, an edict by Emperor Diocletian set the wages of scribes at 25 denarii for 100 lines of first quality writing and 20 denarii for second quality writing. According to the computation of Rendel Harris, the cost of producing one copy of Scripture was 30,000 denarii. It’s tough to know the exact exchange rate, but if 1 denarius = 10 dollars, then one copy of Scripture cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000. And that’s just labor, not parts or parchment.
Makes you appreciate it a little more doesn’t it?

Hopefully this will too. Scribes spent their days in scriptoriums listening to lectors read from the exemplar texts while the scribes wrote what they heard. It was mentally and physically exhausting work. Part of the reason why we know that is the colophons or notes that scribes wrote at the end of their books. One of my favorites, in light of our recent weather, is an Armenian manuscript of the Gospels that complains about the fact that this copy was made during a heavy snowstorm and his ink literally froze and his hand became numb and the pen fell from his frozen fingers! One common colophon amongst scribes was this: “As travelers rejoice to see their home country, so also is the end of a book for those who toil in writing.” Others would simply say: “The end of the book; thanks be to God!”

Scribes would take an entire year making one copy of Scripture. And some scribes took longer. One group of scribes, the Masoretes, were so meticulous in the copying standards that they would count ever letter, every word, and every verse in the OT to insure it’s accuracy!”

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