Back when I was sophomore in college, I was introduced of a group on Facebook called “the Scribe Project.” (I tried to look for it recently but it seems that the group was has been closed.) It is basically a project of spending the time to copy the entire Bible. I got interested in doing it and made it through a couple of weeks of it, but as the school year became more hectic, I wasn’t able to continue it along with my other responsibilities. Also, from me moving from location to location, I misplaced my previous progress along the way. Fast forward to now, I want to pick this up and complete this as well as use it as Bible study material. So I went and grabbed the biggest binder that I can find along with some (more like a lot of) loose leaf paper and I am motivated to get this done. I encourage anyone to do this. I feel that this would provide an opportunity in studying the Bible deeper as well as give me a greater appreciation towards the scribes of old who devoted their time, skills, and focus in writing and copying down the Word of God. Let me share some of the details as to what this project is about:
What is The Scribe Project?
The goal is to hand write (not type) the entire Bible. It is the copier’s decision on how scripture should be copied as long as all the words are copied down. In following the diligent examples of scribes from the past, this should be done with great discipline and precision. If there is an accidental mistake that happens while copying, it must either be corrected or that page must be thrown away completely. This is expected to be a long project, but it’s all a matter of discipline. There are 1189 chapters in the entire Bible, so to do the math: If one copies a chapter a day, it would take 3 years and 94 days to finish the entire Bible. Obviously there are chapter that are longer or shorter than others, as well there are certain days that are more free than other days, so the amount done per day could vary more or less. The way to remain consistent is to make sure that one is copying some amount of scripture every day as a routine. It doesn’t have to be 1 chapter a day.
The project is based on the role of Jewish scribes in ancient history when there are no such things as copier machines. Old Testament scribes back then are actually professionals in society and government. Understanding how important it is to make sure copying documents like the Torah and the Tanakh are not full of errors, they have meticulous rules in copying and treatment process of these manuscripts. Here is a list of how careful these rules are:*
- Only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
- Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
- The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
- Must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
- Must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word “Jehovah,” every time they wrote it.
- There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
- The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
- The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc).
- As no document containing God’s Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah – a Hebrew term meaning “hiding place.” These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a Jewish cemetery.
(*This list is taken from multiple sites, but one of the main sources of this list comes from The Indestructible Book: The Bible, Its Translators, and Their Sacrifices by Ken Connolly.)
I spent a long time thinking about which version I would use for this project. There is no such thing as a perfect translation of the Bible, but a suitable translation will depend on what one wants to use the version for. I don’t just want to copy down the entire Bible by hand, but I want to use it as a place where I can put down notes for the passage on a separate page. This also means that I don’t plan on using the final result for my daily reading or church usage, so the beauty or readability of this project is not going to be a high priority of this project. In order for me to use it as a study of scripture and exegesis, the version that I use needs to be under the tradition of translating word for word, which tries to keep the words and phrases in their original form but being comprehensible in English while preserving historical contexts and understanding in their place. Because of all these reasons, I decided to use the New American Standard Version as my version of choice. It was a hard choice between the NASB and the English Standard Version, which is my normal choice for my daily reading. The ESV does, in essence, try to bring the greatest possible accuracy as a word for word translation, incorporate beauty in the English language like how the KJV did, and is considered more updated in terms of textual scholarship. However, I feel that some parts of making the English to sound literary beautiful might cause the translator to providing their meaning to me instead of me study it myself. Even when I took an Intro to Bible Interpretation class, ESV was considered to be a tier 2 Bible for interpretation compared to the NASB as a tier 1. This is not saying that ESV is not a good Bible to interpret from, for I do use it for reading and interpretation and I trust on using it more than other “thought to thought” or paraphrased Bible. As I start to write notes in my binder, I would be comparing with other versions as well to see if there is more I can get out from them. But in terms of my choice of writing the words down and the version that I will use as my base, NASB is my choice for this project.
Additional Study Material
In addition to writing the Bible down in paper, I will be using commentaries, concordance, dictionaries, study Bibles, OT/NT survey books, and other reference books or research websites to take notes and study scripture along side to supplement my binder and expand on what the text mean.
A couple of specific rules when I do this just so that it can be kept organized and well set:
- I will be writing the Bible verses on white loose leaf paper only.
- I will be using a black pen to copy the Bible, while using a pencil if I have any short in-text notes that I want to mark within or on the side of the text.
- If there are other larger notes that I’ve gotten from the reading or from the commentaries/testament survey, I will initially type them out, print, and place them next to the page that the notes are related to. If there are extra notes that I would want to add, I will put in a yellow loose leaf paper in the binder and write my extensive notes there.
- I will not mark verses as they were not there originally and I would like to see scripture in a holistic way and not in separate parts. However, I will be marking chapters on the side for reference and for organization purposes.
- Depending on the genre, I might change the style of writing from prose form to it’s appropriate writing (like poetry and letter)
I hope and pray that this will bring me a greater, deeper, and closer understanding of God and His Word. I long to see the final product to come to completion for the Glory of God. If any of you are interesting in taking part in this project as well, let me know how you are doing it as well as your progress in the project. An Asian Believer, Elliot