GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE: New Testament Text

In these days of high speed printing and computer graphics it is hard to visualize a period of time when all written communication was done by hand. However in the days of Jesus and the early church such was the case. The two most common materials used for writing in this period of time were papyrus and vellum or parchment.

1. Papyrus: Papyrus originated in Egypt at least 2500 years before the time of Christ and was by far the most common writing material in use when the New Testament was written. Manufactured from the papyrus plant this paper like material was first used in scrolls and then in later times in codice or book form. Thin strips were cut from the stem of the Papyrus plant and laid side by side in an overlapping fashion. A second similar layer was laid crossways over the first. The layers were pressed and glued together to form sheets. Numerous sheets would then be joined together to form scrolls. Pens made from dried reeds cut to a point and slit in the end were first used as writing instruments. Later in time quills became more popular as writing instruments.

2. Vellum & Parchment: Vellum and Parchment are the names used to describe the animal skins that were prepared to receive written words with reed or quill pen. The oldest known leather scrolls of this type in existence today date back to 1500bc. The animal skins were prepared by soaking them in limewater and scraping them clean of all hair Afterwards they were dried and then rubbed smooth with a pumice stone. This process made for an extremely durable writing surface which was a great asset in the preservation of the early Greek manuscripts. Technically, Vellum refers to the higher quality sheets that were derived from the skins of calves. Parchment was derived from other animals like bulls and goats which resulted in a product of a lesser quality.