Partial and piecemeal, here and there
Vowels omitted, consonants square
No jots or tittles, not one iota
As if there was, a letter quota.
Line upon line, word for word
Scriptum continuum without an end
Space is so precious, conventions must bend
Fair hand copy, stylus in hand
Awaiting dictation, write on demand
Line length is even, no letters odd
So it must be--- the Word of God.
Written revelation, unveiled truth
Put on papyrus, sold from a booth
Unroll the scroll, unseal the seal
Meant to inform, not to conceal.
Nomina sacra, the Holy Name
In abbreviation, meaning the same
IX, XC, IHS too
Jehovah combines, God’s name times two.
Inspired authors, inspiring text
God breathed words, soul resurrects
Let it be written, let it be done
Fulfilling fulfillment, victory won.
In the beginning, God chose to speak
Creation created, in under a week
Even the last Word, God will have too
Alpha-Omega, indwelling you.
One of the more fascinating subjects to reflect on Biblically speaking is the theology of the Word. We are apt to see words as just combinations of letters or ciphers or symbols, but this is not how the ancients, living in an overwhelming oral culture, saw words. Words spoke things into existence if they came from God. Genesis 1 is quite explicit about this. But the Word could not only create reality, it could become a human being as John 1 says---‘and the Word took on flesh’. Clearly the ancients saw words in a different light than moderns tend to do. Even in Rev. 19.13 when John of Patmos wants to unveil the final mystery he tells us that the Word of God will leap forth from heaven once more to bring closure to the drama of history. Its not just the Author stepping out on the stage at the end of the play, though that is true, it is that the author becomes the last Word, the last act of the play, bringing it to its proper conclusion.
In this poem I have tried to share some of the things about how the Word came to us through the hands of the ancient scribes, who had as their tools, a stylus, some water made black with soot, a papyrus roll, and a very steady hand and ability to take dictation on the fly. It is hard to even imagine how laborious it was where every single copy of every single page had to be hand-copied—word for word. If it was possible the scribe would use a wax tablet to copy the words first there, and then make a fair hand copy on a scroll since papyrus was quite expensive (as was hiring a scribe). Words took on almost a magical quality, especially religious or sacred ones, and especially the name of a Deity in such an oral culture.
It is all the more interesting then that Christian scribes chose to use abbreviations for the divine names--- XC—Christos kurios; IX Iesous Christos; IHS the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus, though later it was used in Latin to stand for ‘in hoc signo’--- in this Name. Experienced scribes knew that God’s names would be mentioned more than all others, and so they developed these sacred abbreviations, called nomina sacra. But it was the Christian theology that the sacred Word not only could create reality or come in person, it could also indwell and thus inspire ordinary mortals like me and you. In the end, there is no last word on the Word. There is far too much to unveil and to ponder.