Writing

In Exodus 34:1-3 Moses is recorded as writing (for the second time) the commandments of God on Mount Sinai. Many skeptical scholars in the 1960s pointed out that although the Bible records both God and Moses writing, there was no evidence that humans had learned the technology of writing at all by the time of Moses (about 1400 BC). No civilization had a system more complex than hieroglyphics, they declared, a picture system, rather than a symbol system complete with vowels, consonants, and grammar.

The first thing we should note is the logical fallacy in play. To say that writing did not exist in the day of Moses is an inadequate statement. To say that we know of no instance of writing in Moses’ day would be more accurate. Do we know everything about the ancient world of the Bible? Of course not! There are gaps the size of Mount Sinai in our historical knowledge of the era. The reason we do archaeology is to attempt to fill in some of those gaps.

Since then, however, archaeologists have discovered clay tablets containing cuneiform (a Sumerian alphabet) in southern Iraq that dates to 3,500 BC, demonstrating writing to have been in existence 2,100 before Moses. Think about that for a moment. The writing technology had been around for a little more than two millennia when Moses is recorded as writing the Law of God. Think about it from our perspective; two thousand years before our day the Lord had not yet begun to walk the face of the earth. The temple of Herod had not yet been built. The Jews were an independent nation under the Hasmoneans. Rome was not yet in control of Palestine. Two thousand years is a long time for a technology to be around, and there is no question that it was well developed by Moses’ day.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke’” (Exodus 34:1).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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