Perhaps the most surreal thing to do at the Museum is to walk into the main gallery in the early hours of the morning, sit in the middle of the room in silence, and simply listen. We often tell students who visit us in group tours that when you walk into that room and listen, you will hear the voices of nearly 5,000 years of people speaking to you simultaneously; telling their stories through time. Perhaps even more astounding is the knowledge that each one of these stories you hear echo the voices of those who speak the Word of God in the Bible, telling us that these are the words of truth. In this room, history, archaeology, and faith converge through the voices of the people who were there; and that is an almost magical experience made possible by two factors: one, by the artifacts – the works of art, the tools, and the things they left behind and second, perhaps most essentially, by the words they wrote. Surely writing is the most significant invention in the history of mankind: but as important as writing is to history, it is vital to our faith.
According to archaeologists, writing was invented in the area of modern Iraq, near the coast of the Persian Gulf at some point before 3,000B.C. (Finkel, 31). Writing seems to have begun out of necessity, as a means of recording business transactions and administrative memos by a society called the Sumerians (Kramer, 229). At first, writing was simply pictographs drawn in clay with a pointed stylus, but later a reed with a tapered edge was used to make wedge-shaped marks in the clay instead. This style of writing is called cuneiform, which means “wedge-shaped” (Leick, 67-68). Cuneiform is not a language, but a script – and several languages were written using it as their script throughout almost 3,000 years by many cultures from the Sumerians to the Hittites to the Persians. Without the invention of writing, the major events of the world’s history would be lost forever in time: the voices and the stories of those who lived before us would be hushed.
Yet as significant as writing is to history and civilization; it is the key instrument to our faith. The Bible constantly uses terms like “Word,” “Scripture,” “Book,” to describe itself. Certainly, writing is the instrument by which we hear the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” (NKJV). The words “given by inspiration of God” come from the Greek word theopneustos, which means “God-breathed” (Wuest, 150), and here it is especially well translated by the English Standard Version as “breathed out by God.” This tells us that the Scriptures (literally, the writings) were breathed out by God into the writers, who rendered them into words on the page, in much the same way a radio receives signal from radio waves and converts the information into audible sound for us, or the computer downloads information from the internet and converts it into what appears on the screen. What a marvelous and timeless mechanism God chose to bring us His Word! In the same way we can hear the words of the long dead in the Museum, we can also hear the words of God in His great book, the Holy Bible.
Finkel, Irving. The Ark Before Noah. New York: Doubleday, 2014. Print.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1964. Print.
Leick, Gwendolyn. Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City. New York: Penguin, 2002. Print.
Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament. Vol. II. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. Print.