Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Question 2!

Our second Bible illustration related question comes from Matt in the States:

"I'm working on kid's bible coloring pages and was about to do one with Paul in prison, but realized that I've no idea what type of prison it would be. Would it be man made, or a hole in the wall? Also what would Paul be writing his letters on?..and with what? (inkpot and quill?). I suppose that's 3 questions..either way, thanks for whatever guidance you can give".

It would be very useful for all Bible artists to know the answers to these 3 questions. As always, all comments will be greatly appreciated!

Related post:
Question 1
Question 3


Bible artist said...

Hi Matt
Here are a few bits of info that might help.
Wax tablets were being used in Rome at the time that Paul was imprisoned there.
They were made by applying a thin layer of wax onto a flat piece of wood, usually with raised edges. The raised edges allowed the tablets to be bound together in book form and stacked, without damaging the writing on the wax surface. As wax tablets were re-usable, they were the choice for use in Roman school rooms and for Romans writing returnable letters to each other.
A metal or bone Stylus was used to cut the writing into the hard wax. The other end of the stylus was shaped into a small spade. This was used to erase letters if a mistake was made, (a bit like we use pencils with an eraser on the end). A metal stylus could be heated for this purpose.
More important letters or documents, possibly like the ones that Paul sent, were written on Parchment using a reed or a quill pen dipped in ink made from a combination of lamp soot, or pulverized charcoal mixed with gum and water.
Pens and ink were carried around in an Inkhorn which was a long thin box, about nine inches long made of ivory, hardwood or metal. These Inkhorns were often attached to the waistband or girdle, and were highly decorative. Scribes also carried around boards that they used to rest parchments on while writing.

Both Parchment and Papyrus was used for writing on.
Parchment was made from the untanned skins of sheep, goats or calfs which had been stretched while drying to produce a stiff paper like sheet. Papyrus sheets were formed by laying out thin strips from the Papyrus plant over each other, one set running vertically, the other horizontally. These were then pressed together and dried forming sheets.

A useful list of Biblical writing techniques along with scripture references can be found at the web page below:

Roman Prisons.
The jails in Rome were not used like our prisons today. They were holding cells for condemned prisoners. These particular prison cells were dark and hostile places with no daylight. Prisoners were either lowered or thrown into them through a whole in the roof. It is likely that before his death Paul was thrown into one of these. During the period that Paul was writing his prison epistles however, he seemed to have certain privileges. Christian visitors were allowed to see him, and of course he was given access to writing materials. I expect that there was some daylight also, enough to write by anyway.
I would illustrate this as a simple stone room with some daylight coming in.

Other points worth a mention are that Paul dictated some of his epistles to another person, and he was chained at times to a guard. His right wrist would have been chained to the guards left wrist, which may have been the reason he couldn't write himself, (if he was right handed), although many believe it was due to his poor eyesight as Paul mentions that when he writes himself he used large letters.

The information above might be overkill for a children's coloring picture, but it might also help other Bible artists illustrating this story..

Horseman said...

If it were written on papyrus paper, then a stick 6-10 inches long was used. Scribes would chew the end to make it sort of like a paintbrush. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls was on this type of paper that was made from papyrus reeds. If you hold this paper up to the light, you can see the woven texture of the paper.

Parchment was also used. This was made from animal skin. Parchment was lighter and more flexible than papyrus paper. It could be handled easier. Smaller pages could be made and bound together, like a book – where as the papyrus paper was in scroll form (but parchment was also in scroll form). It seems that Jews preferred parchment at the time of Jesus.

Another approach sometimes used by the Romans involved a writing surface made from wooden boards and wax. Romans would write into the wax with a metal stylus.

Source - The bible: A History (by Stephen Miller and Robert Huber)

Looks like Bible Artist already answered - put I posted anyway since I had already written this.

Bible artist said...

Thanks Horseman.
I also read that scribes kept a special pen in a box that they used for writing the word 'God'.
They would also wash their hands both before and after using this pen.