WRITING, 1 [ISBE]
2. Inward Writing
3. Outward Writing
II. THE SYMBOLS
1. Object Writing
2. Image Writing
3. Picture Writing
4. Mnemonic Writing
5. Phonetic Writing
5. Gold and Silver
7. Bones and Skins
1. The Roll
2. The Codex
2. The Writing Art
VIII. HISTORY OF BIBLICAL HANDWRITING
1. Mythological Origins
2. Earliest Use
3. Biblical History
Writing is the art of recording thought, and recording is the making of permanent symbols. Concept, expression and record are three states of the same work or word. Earliest mankind expressed itself by gesture or voice and recorded in memory, but at a very early stage man began to feel the need of objective aids to memory and the need of transmitting a message to a distance or of leaving such a message for the use of others when he should be away or dead. For these purposes, in the course of time, he has invented many symbols, made in various ways, out of every imaginable material. These symbols, fixed in some substance, inward or outward, are writing as distinguished from oral speech, gesture language, or other unrecording forms of expression. In the widest sense writing thus includes, not only penmanship or chirography, but epigraphy, typography, phonography, photography, cinematography, and many other kinds of writing as well as mnemonic object writing and inward writing.
Writing has to do primarily with the symbols, but as these symbols cannot exist without being in some substance, and as they are often modified as to their form by the materials of which they are made or the instrument used in making, the history of writing has to do, not only with the signs, symbols or characters themselves, but with the material out of which they are made and the instruments and methods by which they are made.
2. Inward Writing:
The fact that memory is a real record is well known in modern psychology, which talks much of inward speech and inward writing. By inward writing is commonly meant the inward image or counterpart of visual or tangible handwriting as distinguished from the inward records of the sound of words, but the term fairly belongs to all inward word records. Of these permanent records two chief classes may be distinguished: sense records, whether the sense impression was by eye, ear, finger-tip or muscle, and motor records or images formed in the mind with reference to the motion of the hand or other organs of expression. Both sense records and meter records include the counterparts of every imaginable kind of outward handwriting.
We meet this inward writing in the Bible in the writing upon the tablets of the heart (Prov 3:3; 7:3; Jer 17:1; 2 Cor 3:3), which is thus not a mere figure of speech but a proper description of that effort to fix in memory which some effect by means of sound symbols and some by the sight symbols of ordinary handwriting.
It has also its interesting and important bearing on questions of inspiration and revelation where the prophet "hears" a voice (Ex 19:19; Nu 7:89; Rev 19:1,2) or "sees" a vision (2 Ki 6:17; Isa 6; Am 7:1-9) or even sees handwriting (Rev 17:5). This handwriting not only seems "real" but is real, whether caused by external sound or vision or internal human or superhuman action.
3. Outward Writing:
Outward writing includes many kinds of symbols produced in various ways in many kinds of material. The commonest kind is alphabetical handwriting with pen and ink on paper, but alphabetic symbols are not the only symbols, the hand is not the only means of producing symbols, the pen is not the only instrument, and ink and paper are far from being the only materials.
The ordinary ways of human expression are voice and gesture. Corresponding to these there is an oral writing and a gesture writing. For the recording of vocal sounds various methods have been invented: direct carving or molding in wax or other material, or translating into light vibrations and recording these by photograph or kymograph. Both phonographic and photographic records of sounds are strictly oral writing.
The record of gestures by making pictures of them forms a large fraction of primitive picture writing (e.g. the picture of a man with weapon poised to throw) and the modern cinematography of pantomime is simply a perfected form of this primitive picture writing.
Handwriting is simply hand gesture with a mechanical device for leaving a permanent record of its motion by a trail of ink or incision. In the evolution of expression the imitation of human action tends to reduce itself to sign language, where both arms and the whole body are used, and then to more and more conventionalized hand gesture. This hand gesture, refined, condensed and adapted to mechanical conditions, and provided with pencil, chisel, or pen and ink, is handwriting. Its nature is precisely analogous to that of the self-registering thermometer or kymograph.
Nearly all the great body of existing written documents, save for the relatively few modern phonographic, kymographic and other visible speech records, is handwritten, the symbols being produced, selected, arranged, or at least pointed out, by the hand. Even the so-called phonetic writing, as usually understood, is not sound record but consists of hand-gesture symbols for sounds.
II. The Symbols.
Among the many kinds of outward signs used in writing the best known are the so-called Phoenician alphabet and its many derivatives, including the usual modern alphabets. Other well-known varieties are the wedge system of Assyria and Babylonia, the hieroglyphic systems of Egypt and Mexico, the Chinese characters, stenographic systems, the Morse code, the Braille system, the abacus, the notched stick, the knotted cord, wampum and twig bundles. These, however, by no means exhaust the list of signs which have been used for record or message purposes; e.g. colored flags for signaling, pebbles, cairns, pillars, flowers, trees, fishes, insects, animals and parts of animals, human beings, and images of all these things, have all served as record symbols in writing.
The various symbols may be grouped as objects and images, each of these classes divided again into pictorial or representative signs and mnemonic or conventional signs, mnemonic signs again divided into ideographic and phonetic, and phonetic again into verbal, syllabic (consonantal), and alphabetic. This may be represented graphically as follows:
(2) Conventional (Mnemonic)
(a) Ideographic (Eye Images)
(b) Phonetic (Ear Images)
(2) Conventional (Mnemonic)
Objects may be whole objects (a man) or characteristic parts (human head, arm, leg) or samples (feather or piece of fur). The objects may be natural objects or artificial objects designed for another purpose (arrow), or objects designed especially to be used as writing symbols (colored flags). Images include images of all these objects and any imaginary images which may have been invented for writing purposes.
Pictorial or representative signs are distinguished from mnemonic or conventional signs by the fact that in themselves they suggest the thing meant, while the others require agreement beforehand as to what they shall mean. The fact, however, that the symbol is a picture of something does not make it pictorial or the writing picture writing. It is pictorial, not because it is a picture, but because it pictures something. The fact, e.g., that a certain symbol may be recognized as an ox does not make of this a pictograph. If it stands for or means an ox, it is a pictograph; if it stands for "divinity," it may be called an ideograph, or if it stands for the letter a it is phonetic, a phonogram.
The key to the evolution of writing symbols is to be found in a law of economy. Object writing undoubtedly came first, but man early learned that the image of an object would serve as well for record purposes and was much more convenient to handle. True picture writing followed. The same law of economy led to each of the other steps from pictorial to alphabetic, and may be traced in the history of each kind and part. Every alphabet exhibits it. The history of writing is in brief a history of shorthand. It begins with the whole object or image, passes to the characteristic part, reduces this to the fewest possible strokes which retain likeness, conventionalizes these strokes, and then, giving up all pretense of likeness to the original symbol, and frankly mnemonic, it continues the process of abbreviation until the whole ox has become the letter "a" or perhaps a single dot in some system of stenography.
Object writing is not common in the phonetic stage, but even this is found, for example, in alphabetical flags for ship signaling. The actual historical evolution of writing seems to have been object, image-picture, ideogram. phonogram, syllable, consonant, letter. All of these stages have some echoes at least in the Bible, although even the syllabic stage seems to have been already passed at the time of Moses. The Hebrew Old Testament as a whole stands for the consonantal stage and the Greek New Testament for the complete alphabetic--still the climax of handwriting, unless the evolution of mathematical symbols, which is a very elaborate evolution of ideographic handwriting, is so regarded.
Although probably not even a single sentence of the Hebrew Bible was written in ideographic, picture, or object handwriting, many documents which are used or quoted by Biblical writers were written by these methods, and all of them are repeatedly implied. In a number of cases full exegesis requires a knowledge of their nature and history. A certain number of scholars now believe that the Pentateuch was originally written in cuneiform, after the analogy of the circumstances shown by the Tell el-Amarna Letters. In this case of course there would still be traces both of the syllabic and ideographic, but theory is improbable.
1. Object Writing:
The most primitive writing was naturally pictorial object writing. When the hunter first brought home his quarry, this had in it most of the essential elements of modern handwriting. Those who remained at home read in the actual bodies the most essential record of the trip. When, further, the hunter brought back useless quarry to evidence his tale of prowess, the whole essence of handwriting was involved. This was whole-object record, but object abbreviations soon followed. Man early learned that skins represented whole animals (the determinative for "quadruped" in Egyptian is a hide), and that a reindeer's head or antlers, or any characteristic part, served the simple purpose of record just as well as the whole object, and this method of record survives in a modern hunting-lodge. The bounty on wolves' scalps and the expression "so many head of cattle" are similar survivals. In war, men returning hung the dead bodies of their enemies from the prows of their triumphal ships or from the walls of the city, and, in peace, from the gibbet, as object lessons. They soon learned, however, that a head would serve all practical purposes as well as a whole body, and the inhabitants of Borneo today practice their discovery. Then they discovered that a scalp was just as characteristic and more portable, and the scalp belt of the American Indian is the result. The ancient Egyptians counted the dead by "hands" carried away as trophies. Both objects and images tend thus to pass from the whole object to a characteristic part, then to the smallest characteristic part: from the tiger's carcass or stuffed tiger to the tiger's claw or its picture. The next or mnemonic step was taken when the simplest characteristic part was exchanged for a pebble, a twig, a notched stick, a knot, or any other object or image of an object which does not in itself suggest a tiger.
The pictorial object writing had an evolution of its own and reached a certain degree of complexity in elaborate personal adornment, in sympathetic magic, the medicine bag, the prayer stick, pillars, meteoric stones, etc., for worship, collections of liturgical objects, fetishes, votive offerings, trophies, etc.
It reached a still higher order of complexity when it passed into the mnemonic stage represented by the abacus, the knotted cord, the notched stick, the wampum, etc. The knotted cord may be recognized in the earliest hieroglyphic signs, is found still among primitive people, and its most famous example is the, Peruvian quipu. It still survives in the cardinal's hat and the custom of knotting a handkerchief for mnemonic purposes. It is found in the Bible in a peculiarly clear statement in the mnemonic "fringes" of Nu 15:37-41 (compare Dt 22:12). The notched stick is equally old, as seen in the Australian message stick, and its best-known modern example is the tally of the British Exchequer. The abacus and the rosary are practically the lineal descendants of the pebble heap which has a concrete modern counterpart in the counting with pebbles by Italian shepherd boys. It is possible that the notched message stick has its echo in Jdg 5:14 (military scribe's staff); Nu 17:1-10 (Aaron's inscribed rod), and all scepters (rods of authority) and herald's wands.
2. Image Writing:
It was a very long step in the history of handwriting from object to image, from the trophy record to the trophy image record. The nature of this step may perhaps be seen in the account of the leopard-tooth necklace of an African chief described by Frobenius. In itself this was merely a complex trophy record--the tribal record of leopards slain. When, however, the chief took for his own necklace the actual trophy which some members of the tribe had won, while the hunter made a wooden model of the tooth which served him as trophy, this facsimile tooth became an image record. This same step from object to image is most familiar in the history of votive offerings, where the model is substituted for the object, the miniature model for the model, and finally a simple written inscription takes the place of the model. It is seen again in sympathetic magic when little wax or clay images are vicariously buried or drowned, standing for the person to be injured, and taking the place of sample parts, such as the lock of hair or nail-parings, etc., which are used in like manner by still more primitive peoples.
3. Picture Writing:
It was another long step in the evolution of symbols when it occurred to man that objects worn for record could be represented by paint upon the body. The origin of written characters is often sought in the practice of tattooing, but whatever truth there may be in this must be carried back one step, for it is generally agreed and must naturally have been the fact that body painting preceded tattooing, which is a device for making the record permanent. The transition from the object trophy to the image on the skin might easily have come from the object causing a pressure mark on the skin. There is good reason to believe that the wearing of trophies was the first use of record keeping.
It is of course not proved that body ornaments or body marks are the original of image writing or that trophies are the earliest writing, nor yet that models of trophies or votive offerings were the first step in image writing. It may be that the first images were natural objects recognized as resembling other objects. The Zuni Indians used for their chief fetishes natural rock forms. The first step may have been some slight modification of natural stone forms into greater resemblance, such as is suggested by the slightly modified sculptures of the French-Spanish caves. Or again the tracks of animals in clay may have suggested the artificial production of these tracks or other marks, and the development of pottery and pottery marks may have been the main line of evolution. The Chinese trace the origin of their symbols to bird tracks. Or again smear marks of earth or firebrand or blood may have suggested marks on stone, and the marked pebbles of the Pyrenean caves may have reference to this. Or yet again the marks on the animals in the Pyrenean caves may have been ownership marks and point back to a branding of marks or a primitive tattooing by scarification.
Whatever the exact point or motive for the image record may have been, and however the transition was made, the idea once established had an extensive development which is best illustrated by the picture writing of the American Indians, though perhaps to be found in the Bushmen drawings, petroglyphs, and picture writing the world over. It is almost historic in the Sumerian and the Egyptian, whose phonetic symbols are pictographic in origin at least and whose determinatives are true pictographs.
4. Mnemonic Writing:
The transition from pictorial to conventional or mnemonic takes place when the sign ceases to suggest the meaning directly, even after explanation. This happens in two ways: (1) when an object or image stands for something not directly related to that naturally suggested, e.g., when a stuffed fox stands for a certain man because it is his totem, or an ox's head stands for divinity or for the sound "a," or when the picture of a goose stands for "son" in the Egyptian because the sounds of the two words are the same; (2) when by the natural process of shorthanding the object or image has been reduced beyond the point of recognition. Historically, the letter a is ox (or goat?); actually it means a certain sound.
When this unrecognizable or conventional sign is intended to suggest a visual image it is called an ideogram, when an ear picture, a phonogram. Anybody looking casually over a lot of Egyptian hieroglyphics can pick out kings' names because of the oval line or cartouche in which they are enclosed. This cartouche is ideagraphic. On the other hand the pictures of a sun, two chicks, and a cerastes within the cartouche have nothing to do with any of these objects, but stand for the sounds kufu--who is the person commonly known as Cheops. This is phonetic. Both old Babylonian and Egyptian show signs of picture origin, but the earliest Babylonian is mainly ideographic, and both developed soon into the mixed stage of phonetic writing with determinatives.
5. Phonetic Writing:
Phonetic writing seems to have developed out of the fact that in all languages the same sound often has many different meanings. In English "goose" may mean the fowl or the tailor's goose. In Egyptian the sound "sa" or "s", with a smooth breathing, means "goose" or "son," and the picture of a goose means either.
Whether the word-sign is an ideogram or a phonogram is a matter of psychology. Many modern readers even glimpse a word as a whole and jump to the visual image without thinking of sounds at all. To them it is an ideagram. Others, however, have to spell out the sounds, even moving their lips to correspond. To them as to the writer it is a phonogram. The same was true of the ancient picture or ideagraphic sign. The word-sign was ideagram or phonogram according to intention or to perception.
With the transition to syllabic writing, record became chiefly phonetic. The transition was made apparently by an entirely natural evolution from the practice of using the same word-sign for several different objects having the same sound, and it proceeded by the way of rebus, as shown in Mexican and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Syllabic writing implies a symbol for every monosyllable. It was a great step therefore when it was discovered that the number of sounds was small and could be represented by individual symbols, as compound words could by syllable signs. At first only consonants were written. In the Semitic languages vowels were at first not written at all--possibly they were not even recognized, and one might use any vowel with a particular combination of consonants. However that may be, what many prefer to call consonantal writing seems to have existed for 2,000 years before the vowels were recognized and regularly introduced into the Phoenician alphabet. It is at this stage that alphabetic writing, as usually reckoned, began.
Phonetic consonantal writing has now been in use some 5,000 years and strict alphabetic writing some 3,000 years, almost to the exclusion of other forms. The characters in use today in several hundred alphabets are probably the historical descendants, with accumulation of slight changes through environment, of characters existing from near the beginning.
Alongside the development of the historic system of symbols, there has been, still within the field of alphabetic writing for the most part, a parallel line with multitudes of shorthand and cryptographic systems. An equally great multitude of code systems are in effect phonetic words or sentences and cryptographically or otherwise used for cable or telegraph, diplomatic letters, criminal correspondence and other secret purposes.
Roughly speaking, the ways of making symbols, apart from the selection of the ready-made, may be reduced to two which correspond to art in the round or in three dimensions and art in the flat or in two dimensions. The former appeals to eye or touch, affording a contrast by elevation or depression, while the latter produces the same effect by contrasting colors on a flat surface.
Written symbols in three dimensions are produced either by cutting or by pressure. In the case of hard material superfluous matter is removed by sculpture, engraving or die cutting. In the case of plastic or malleable material, it is modeled, molded, hammered or stamped into the required form. To the first form belongs the bulk of stone inscriptions, ancient metal inscriptions, scratched graffiti, wax tablets, etc., to the later clay tablets, votive figurines, seal impressions, hammered inscriptions, minted coins, also molded inscriptions, coins and medals, etc. Several of the Hebrew and Greek words for writing imply cutting (chaqaq, charaT, charash, etc.; grapho).
Symbols in two dimensions are produced either by drawing or printing, both of which methods consist in the applying of some soft or liquid material to a material of a contrasting color or cutting from thin material and laying on. Drawing applies the material in a continuous or interrupted line of paint, charcoal, colored chalk, graphite, ink or other material. Its characteristic product is the manuscript. This laying on is implied, as some think (Blau, 151), in the commonest Hebrew word for writing (kathabh). Tattooing (Dt 14:1; Lev 19:28, etc.), embroidery (embroidered symbolic figures, Ex 28:33,34) and weaving belong in this class (embroidered words in Palestine Talmud 20a, quoted by Blau, 165).
Printing consists in laying the contrasting color on by means of stencil or pressure, forming symbols in two dimensions at one stroke. Perhaps the most primitive form of printing is that of the pintadoes, by which the savage impresses war paint or other ceremonial forms on his face and body. Branding also belongs in this class (Gal 6:17, figuratively; 3 Macc 2:19; branding on the forehead, Code of Hammurabi, section 127; branding a slave, Code of Hammurabi, sections 226, 227).
These processes of cutting, molding, drawing and printing roughly correspond with inscriptions, coins, medals, seals, manuscripts, and printed documents--epigraphy, numismatics, sigillography, chirography, typography.
The commonest instruments of ancient writing were the pen, brush and style. Other instruments are: the various tools for modeling, molds, stencils, dies, stamps, needles, engraving tools, compass, instruments for erasure, for the ruling of lines, vessels for ink or water, etc. Several of these are mentioned and others are implied in the Bible. The chisel which cuts and the stylus which scratches are both called stylus or simply the "iron" (the iron pen). The graving tool of Ex 32:4, the iron pen of Job 19:24, the pen of Isa 8:1, the pen of iron of Jer 17:1, and, with less reason, the pencil of Isa 44:13, are all commonly interpreted as stilus or style, but they are sometimes at least cutting rather than scratching tools. References to wooden tablets also imply the style, and references to clay tablets either the style proper or a similar instrument for pressure marks. The point of a diamond in Jer 17:1, whether it is joined with the pen of iron or not, seems to refer to the use of corundum in the engraving of precious stones. The passages which refer to blotting out (see below) or writing on papyrus (see below) or refer to an ink-horn or ink (see respective articles) imply a pen or brush rather than style, and presumably the writing of the New Testament implied in general a reed pen. The wide house "painted with vermilion" (Jer 22:14) implies the brush, but there is no direct evidence of its use in writing in the Bible itself. The existing ostraca from Ahab's palace are, however, done with the brush. The pencil (seredh) mentioned in Isa 44:13 certainly means some instrument for shaping, but is variously translated as "line" (the King James Version), "red ochre" (Revised Version margin), and even "stilus," or "line-marking stilus" (paragraphis Aquila). The compass, often referred to in classical times, is found in Isa 44:13. The line ruler (paragraphis), referred to by Aquila (Isa 44:13), and the simple plummet as well were probably used, as in later times, for marking lines. The needle is referred to in late Hebrew and needlework in the Bible (see III, above). The ink-horn or water vessel for moistening the dry inks is implied in all papyrus or leather writing.
See INK, INK-HORN.
The Hebrew term translated "weight of lead" in Zec 5:8, and "talent of lead" is precisely equivalent to the Greek term for the circular plate of lead (kuklomolibdos) used for ruling lines, but something heavier than the ruling lead seems meant.
Erasure or blotting out is called for in Nu 5:23, and often figuratively (Ex 32:32,33; Rev 3:5, etc.). If writing was on papyrus, this would call for the sponge rather than the penknife as an eraser, but the latter, which is used for erasure or for making reed pens, is referred to in Jer 36:23. For erasing waxed surfaces the blunt end of the style was used certainly as early as the New Testament times. Systematic erasure when vellum was scarce produced the palimpsest.