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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Is the Bible the Authoritative Word of God?

Don Stewart :: Were Some of the Biblical Books Actually Written by a Scribe Rather than by the Named Author? (An Amanuensis)

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Were Some of the Biblical Books Actually Written by a Scribe Rather than by the Named Author? (An Amanuensis)

Is the Bible the Authoritative Word of God – Question 22

Yes. We know that a number of biblical writers did not compose their own works, but rather dictated them to a scribe. In the ancient world, many books were written by means of a person dictating his thoughts to a scribe. This scribe was known as an “amanuensis.”

We have a number of biblical examples of this practice.

1. Jeremiah Dictated His Words to Baruch

Jeremiah 36 tells us that Jeremiah dictated the substance of his preaching to his secretary, Baruch. Baruch then wrote down Jeremiah’s words. The Book of Jeremiah says:

Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. (Jeremiah 36:4 NRSV)

This may have been the way a number of the books of Scripture were actually composed. The author would dictate his thoughts to his scribe, and the scribe would record it.

2. The Prophet Isaiah Had Disciples Who Recorded His Words

We know that the prophet Isaiah had his own group of disciples. He himself wrote of them. He said the following:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. (Isaiah 8:16 NKJV)

It is possible that his disciples edited some of his speeches and writings.

3. The Apostle Paul Used Scribes

We know that Paul did not physically write some of his letters. It seems like he may have dictated all of them to a scribe. The Book of Romans closes with the following statement:

I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22 KJV)

Therefore, we find that the actual person who physically wrote the Book of Romans was a man named Tertius.

In many of his letters, Paul wrote a final greeting in his own handwriting. For example, the first letter to the Corinthians closes as follows:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. (1 Corinthians 16:21 NRSV)

At the end of the Book of Colossians, we find the following comment:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:18 NRSV)

In his personal letter to Philemon, Paul emphasized that he wrote a portion of it in his own handwriting. He said:

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. (Philemon 19 NRSV)

Again, we note that Paul would write something with his own handwriting in each letter.

4. Paul Had a Sign of Authenticity in His Letters

The second letter to the Thessalonians closes with a remark from Paul that emphasizes his own particular mark or signature:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. (2 Thessalonians 3:17 NRSV)

According to his statement, Paul would close each of his letters with his own signature. This was his unique way of verifying the authenticity of his letters.

Paul’s reason for employing someone to write for him was possibly a result of a physical limitation. There is evidence that Paul had some problem with his eyes. He wrote the following to the churches of Galatia:

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! (Galatians 6:11 NRSV)

What was written here is consistent with Paul having some type of problem with his eyesight. It seems that his vision was so poor that he could not write correctly. Consequently, he had the need to employ a scribe, or amanuensis.

5. Peter May Have Used a Scribe

Peter also may have used a scribe to write his letters. At the conclusion of his first letter, we read the following:

Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Peter 5:12 NRSV)

His letter was written “through Silvanus.” However, the phrase “through Silvanus,” may mean that Silvanus delivered the letter—not that he wrote it for Peter.

Conclusion: Using a Scribe Has Nothing to Do with the Authority of the Writing

The fact that the biblical writers used a scribe or an amanuensis to write down their words does not take away from the idea of the Bible’s authority. The words and thoughts were Paul’s own which the Holy Spirit directed. The scribe only recorded his words.

The same holds true for the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and the writings of Peter. The actual written words were the ones that the Lord had given them. The scribe merely recorded them. Therefore, the final result was the written Word of God.

Summary – Question 22
Were Some of the Biblical Books Actually Written by a Scribe Rather than by the Named Author? (Amanuensis)

In the ancient world, it was common practice for a writer to dictate his thoughts to a scribe. We find a number of examples of this practice in Scripture. This includes Jeremiah, Paul and possibly Peter. Isaiah the prophet tells us that he had his own disciples. It is possible that they edited some of his material. In a number of Paul’s letters he used a scribe, or an amanuensis, to write down his thoughts.

However, these were still Paul’s words. The fact that he himself did not actually do the physical writing has nothing to do with the divine inspiration of the finished product. It was Paul’s work guided by the Holy Spirit. The same is true for the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and the Apostle Peter. The key is where the words originated—not who put them down in written form. The united testimony of Scripture is that the ultimate author is God Himself.

Why Are the Writings of the Apostle Paul Considered to Be Divinely Authoritative? ← Prior Section
Should the Written Scripture Be Our Source of Authority? Next Section →
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