The late Verlyn Verbrugge’s book, Paul & Money, contains an intriguing discussion of how much money Paul would have needed to write his epistles (p. 100-2). I had never considered this question, and I turned Verlyn’s thoughts into an essay for Our Daily Journey. I commend it and Verlyn’s interesting book to you.
“When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers” (2 Timothy 4:13).
Our digital world makes it difficult to appreciate the value of words. We send each other texts and emails, which we answer and then delete. We might write a letter if we have something important to say, and on special occasions we’ll send a card. If we really want to make an impression, such as with wedding or graduation invitations, we’ll pay extra to put our message in formal script.
Our form of communication depends on its function. We wouldn’t
use calligraphy to write out our grocery list, and we wouldn’t use email to propose marriage. If you have, this may be the reason she said no!
Because form follows function, God chose an expensive, time-consuming process to write His Holy Word. Consider Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Paul didn’t take out a pen and start jotting thoughts, but used a scribe named Tertius to write down his words (Romans 16:22). Tertius either volunteered his time or was paid by a patron, perhaps the wealthy Erastus (Romans 16:23). Paul probably kept at least one copy for himself, in case his courier Phoebe lost the letter on her way to Rome (Romans 16:1). These copies of his letters may be what Paul had in mind when he told Timothy to “bring my books, and especially my papers” (2 Timothy 4:13).
Each copy of Romans would have taken 2-3 days to write out, and scholars estimate this epistle would have cost Paul at least US$2,275 in today’s dollars. Books such as Luke and Acts are twice as long, and would have cost at least US$7,000 each, not counting Luke’s research expenses. Perhaps Luke dedicated his books to Theophilus because he was the patron who covered his costs (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3).
Today we can read God’s Word in paperback, online, and on cell phones. Thank God for how accessible His Word has become, and remember the expensive, painstaking process that produced those first, beautiful words. May we treasure them always.
Photo by israeltourism. Via Flickr. Used by permission.