Hallowed Be Thy Name


Before the luxury of the printing press, all books were copied by hand – even the Bible. Scribes, who had this tedious, painstaking job, spent their whole day copying letters and words from one scroll to another. Many people dispute the authenticity of the Bible both as a historical document and as the true Word of God. They argue there was no way that a book could be passed errorless through centuries of this ancient form of ‘photocopying’. Looking deeper into this issue helps us understand how that argument has no grounds, and also gives us some food for thought on how we respect the Name of God.

Copying the Bible was not a task the Jews took lightly. God had entrusted these people with the safekeeping of His Word, and to ensure this the Jewish people formed many rules for those given the special task of copying the Scriptures. These rules were to maintain the accuracy and integrity of the Word and to show utmost respect for He who had spoken it. These rules included:

  • The parchment used to copy Scripture onto must have been the skin of a clean animal, and the scribe had to be in full Jewish dress
  • Each column of text must have had between 48 and 60 lines. The lines were to be drawn up before any copy was commenced.
  • The ink was always black, and had to be created from a special recipe
  • The scribe could not write from memory. They had a authentic copy in front of them and had to read each word aloud before writing it to prevent duplication or omission of words.
  • Rules regulated the size and forms of letters and spacing and how the quill was used
  • In the rare case a scroll needed to be corrected after copying, it needed to be done within 15 days, otherwise the copy was considered worthless, and if there was three or more mistakes on one page, the page was destroyed straight away anyway.
  • Proof-reading wasn’t just how it is today – casually reading over searching for any spelling mistakes or sentences that don’ make sense. No, every word and every letter was counter to make sure it matched with the original. If the amount of letters did not match, or two letters touched, the copy was immediately destroyed. The first word of each line was also checked, as well as the middle word of every page. (source)
From this record we can see the scrupulously meticulous care these people took to coping this special text. A mistake was virtually impossible – in fact, we can compare the earliest records of Scripture available to copies from much later, and not see a difference! Certainly God was working through this time to ensure His Holy Word was preserved for generations to come. The Bible is one of the most historically exact pieces of writing in the world – throughout all time on Earth, it has been maintained in it’s original words. The Bible has more historical integrity than most other books from its time, and it is hard to see how anyone can argue its contents are untrue or have been changed, or that great mistakes have been made to the point that the original message has been changed.
I purposefully left out one of the eight rules for Bible scribes above. This is because it presents another interesting topic. This last rule said that each and every time the scribe had to write the word “God” (Elohim), he had to clean his quill. Moreover, whenever he had to write the word “LORD” (Jehovah), he had to clean his entire body – every time! Not only this, to write that word, the scribe had to take a new unused pen to write that one word with, and then afterwards burn it so that nothing else could be written with it. The writing of this word was treated with so much respect that even if the King spoke to the scribe at the moment he was writing the Name of God, the scribe was to ignore the King until he had finished the word. 
This is an incredible account of an amazing respect for the Lord’s name, and incredible obedience to the third commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”  We can learn so much from this example. Today there is extremely little respect for God or His name. It is said lightly, jokingly, or used as a swear word. We ought to respect the name of God – firstly because He commands it, but also because a respect of the name is representative of a respect for the person.
An incredible amount has changed from the time when the Israelites would not even write the name of God to prevent it from being deface. The Holy and Righteous Name Of God is used everyday and everywhere – sadly though usually in vain. Even Christian people can fall into defiling the name of God. The Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A99) says:

What is required in the third commandment?

A. We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the Name of God by cursing,[1] perjury,[2] or unnecessary oaths,[3] nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.[4] In short, we must use the holy Name of God only with fear and reverence,[5] so that we may rightly confess Him,[6] call upon Him,[7] and praise Him in all our words and works.[8]

[1] Lev. 24:10-17. [2] Lev. 19:12 [3] Matt. 5:37; James 5:12. [4] Lev. 5:1; Prov. 29:24. [5] Ps. 99:1-5; Is. 45:23; Jer. 4:2. [6] Matt. 10:32, 33; Rom. 10:9, 10. [7] Ps. 50:14, 15; I Tim. 2:8. [8] Rom. 2:24; Col. 3:17; I Tim. 6:1.   

We must address our God with fear and reverence. Perhaps the most challenging part of this answer for me is “nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders”. This hits home hard for people who may not use God’s name in vain, but often hear people around them say it. Just witnessing people blaspheme and not rebuking them means we are also “sharing in such horrible sins”. Do not be a “silent bystander”. If someone around you uses the name of God in vain, let them know this is not on – God hates it so much he puts the punishment of death upon it (Lev 24:11-16). But also let them know that Jesus came so that God’s wrath could be turned away from us, and we could live forever wih our God.Promote respect for God and His Name. When speaking of Him or writing about Him, treat the subject with special reverence. For this is our God, the Creator of the Universe we are talking about. His Name is to be Hallowed, it is Holy, it is Righteous.


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