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Ancient scribal habits by modern standards

Posted: April 5th, 2018, 11:09 am
by Matthew Longhorn
Possibly a really stupid question but I have been thinking about how we analyse ancient texts such as the bible.
Looking at emails or documents for work that I write I frequently make revisions to sentences as I write them. This will be due to a number of factors such as the focus of the sentence being lost, parenthetical information being too long etc.
As I read more on relevance theory and SFL I have been wondering whether we can uniformally use the same standards for modern texts that can be amended as they are written as we can for ancient texts. Even with paper now it is cheap and easy to obtain so crossing out or grabbing a new sheet isn’t a problem.

When we look at letters in the bible such as the Pauline corpus is there reason to be careful in overanalysing based on these modern standards? When writing these letters originally would revisions have been easily made, was papyrus easily obtainable and therefore starting a new version easy enough (just a couple of examples)

Sorry if a bit garbled (which would be ironic given the subject)

Re: Ancient scribal habits by modern standards

Posted: April 5th, 2018, 6:31 pm
by Jonathan Robie
Early writers often used wax tablets for writing and editing texts before committing them to parchment or papyrus.

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So this may look like an ancient laptop with a stylus, but it is actually a wax tablet:

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Here is an example of Greek writing on very old wax from such a tablet:

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Re: Ancient scribal habits by modern standards

Posted: April 5th, 2018, 6:35 pm
by Jonathan Robie
Matthew Longhorn wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 11:09 am
When we look at letters in the bible such as the Pauline corpus is there reason to be careful in overanalysing based on these modern standards? When writing these letters originally would revisions have been easily made, was papyrus easily obtainable and therefore starting a new version easy enough (just a couple of examples)
You could erase and revise, but writing was slower and often involved a scribe, it's interesting to speculate on how that changed the process. Did an experienced scribe suggest improvements? Would the author's writing style vary depending on who the scribe was?

It might be interesting to get a replica of a wax tablet and play around with this process, sometimes writing it yourself, sometimes dictating to someone else and getting them to write down what you want to say.

Re: Ancient scribal habits by modern standards

Posted: April 6th, 2018, 4:12 am
by Matthew Longhorn
Thanks very much for these helpful replies Jonathan.
Glad it wasn’t as daft a question as a feared it might have been