Hand Copying Scripture
Hand copying Scripture is simply writing passages by hand word for word. Why would you do this when you probably own a number of copies of the Bible and can even easily access Scripture digitally? The purpose of hand copying Scripture is not to have another copy of the Bible. Instead, this form of Scripture engagement offers you the unique opportunity to slow down the process of reading and experience a more reflective engagement with God’s Word.
It is so easy to read the Bible quickly and forget what was read within a few minutes. Hand copying helps combat quick, surface-level reading. The goal of Scripture engagement is to meet God in his Word, and this method of Scripture engagement—writing the Bible out by hand—gives you more time to think about what is written and to dwell on the meaning and implications of a passage. Hand copying is a focusing activity.
Hand copying is also an aid to memory. You probably would agree that writing information down helps you recall that information later. Hand copying Scripture can be a great help when you’re trying to memorize verses or passages of the Bible.
Hand copying will also help you to perceive details in a passage that you might have overlooked. As your hand writes words and phrases multiple times (often a sign of emphasis in the Bible), your attention will be drawn to those words and phrases as being important, which will help you comprehend the passage.
It might be inspiring to remember that for thousands of years, God’s people had scribes whose job it was to pass on God’s Word by making written copies (we owe this long line of people a great spiritual debt). In the Old Testament, scribes such as Ezra were revered for their knowledge of Scripture that he developed through copying it. Throughout church history, monks transcribed the Bible, devoting their entire lives to studying and living out God’s Word. As you hand copy the Bible, you will mirror the practices of these scribes and monks and gain the same spiritual benefits that others have gained.
There is an interesting passage in the Bible that commands the kings of Israel to personally make their own hand copy of the God’s law. A king could have easily had someone else make him a copy, but the law says that he was to do it himself. In Deuteronomy 17:18-20, God commands:
When [the king] 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.
God knew that the people of Israel would one day demand a king. Therefore, far in advance, God planned a spiritual discipline that would be required of these kings to keep them devoted to him, his Word, and his people. God mandated that each king make his own handwritten copy of the law, keep it with him at all times, and read it all of his life. The king was to do this so that he would learn to honor God, follow his commands, and stay humble. God promised that if the king did these things, he and his descendants would prosper.
God’s establishment of the practice of hand copying Scripture for kings should be a testament to its value and effectiveness, as well as a worthwhile exercise of Scripture engagement for any Christian.