Third Sunday In Ordinary Time – Nehemiah 8:2-10; Luke 4:14-21
Every word was precious.
Imagine if every book in the world cost $50,000. A $100,000.
Imagine if every piece of paper cost $100—if every email and text cost a $100 to send, or to read.
Our behavior would change. We’d be a lot more careful with our words. We’d only write down what was really important and we’d pay a lot more attention to what other people write.
And this is the way it was in the ancient world. We think the people of the past were like us, and they were, fundamentally, but in some ways they were very different, and they were very different when it came to reading and writing.
Not only didn’t they have the internet, they didn’t have the printing press. The printing press wasn’t invented until the 15th century, and so books were not mass produced and were not affordable. It took a whole year to copy out a book onto a scroll like the scrolls Ezra reads from in the reading today and Jesus reads from in the synagogue–they were 30, sometimes 35 feet long–it took a whole year for someone to write out a scroll like that, by hand, and so a whole year’s wages.
Books were rare. You couldn’t own them yourself. You had to come to hear them read aloud, the way we come to a movie theatre—that’s what the word “read” means in Hebrew and in Greek: to proclaim aloud. Reading was centralized, it was a public event, and the texts being read aloud were of the greatest possible value because only what really mattered was committed to parchment. Every word was precious.