Hand copying Scripture is simply writing out word-for-word passages of Scripture by hand. Why would anybody do this when most people own many copies of the Bible and can easily access it digitally? The purpose of hand copying Scripture is not to have another copy of the Bible. Remember, the goal of Scripture engagement is to meet God in his Word. Writing the Bible out by hand offers us the unique opportunity to participate in an activity that forces us to slow down the process of reading and encourages a more reflective engagement with God’s Word. It gives us 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. Too often we read quickly and forget what we’ve read within a few minutes. Hand copying helps combat quick, surface level reading.
Copying is also an aid to memory. Most people would agree that writing information down helps the mind to recall that information later. Hand copying Scripture can be a great help when memorizing passages of the Bible.
Hand copying the Bible also helps us to perceive details in a passage that might have been overlooked. As our hands write down words and phrases multiple times (often a sign of emphasis in the Bible) attention will be drawn to those words and phrases as being important, which helps us comprehend the passage.
It might be inspiring to remember that for 1000s 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 developed through copying the Scripture. Throughout church history, monks have been the people who have transcribed the Bible, devoting their lives to studying and living out God’s Word. As we hand copy the Bible we mirror the practices of these scribes and monks and can 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 Bible (a king could have easily had someone else make him a copy). In Deuteronomy 17:18-20 God commands that:
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.
God knew that the people of Israel would one day demand for themselves a king. Therefore, far in advance, he planned a spiritual discipline that would be required of these kings to keep them devoted to God, his Word, and his people. God mandated that each king was to make his own handwritten copy of the law, to keep it with him at all times, and to read it all of his life. The king was to do this so that he would learn to honor God, follow the words of the Bible, stay humble and follow God’s commands. 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, and a challenge for any Christian!
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