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

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Don Stewart
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 a person dictating his thoughts to a scribe. This scribes was known as an amanuensis. We have a number of biblical examples of this. 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.

So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the LORD had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll (Jeremiah 36:4).

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.

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 down this letter, greet you in the Lord (Romans 16:2).

Therefore 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.

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

At the end of Colossians it reads

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

In his personal letter to Philemon Paul wrote.

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back--not to mention that you owe me your very self. (Philemon 19).

Paul's Sign Of Authenticity

The second letter to the Thessalonians closes with this remark from Paul.

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

According to his statement, Paul would close each of his letters with his own signature. Paul's Problem

Paul's reason for employing someone to write for him was probably a result of a physical limitation. There is evidence that Paul had some problem with his eyes. He wrote to the church at Galatia the following.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! (Galatians 6:11).

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.


Peter also used a scribe to write his letter.

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).

It Has Nothing To Do With Authority

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 of Peter. The actual written words were the ones the Lord had given him. The scribe merely recorded them.


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 Peter.

In a number of Paul's letters he used a scribe or 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 did the words originate - not who put them down in written form.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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