scribal error?

This week as a Sunday School activity, we had a look at the idea of how the copies of the New Testament came into being. Scribes made copies of the originals, and then copies of these copies were made.

Parchment was very expensive, and so the original copyists didn’t tend to use spaces in their work: instead, the reader had to work out where the spaces were from the context of what was written. To make it more difficult, for the first few centuries at least, everything was written in upper case letters.

There were a few shortcomings: none of the Sunday School kids can write in Greek characters, so we had to use English ones. To make it more difficult, though, I used a code, and mucked around with the spaces. You can see the original in the foreground of this photo.

From there, the kids had to copy what was written, minus the spaces, then swap with someone and make a copy of the copy. Once they’d made the second copy, I told them what the code was, and they had to decode it.

It was a good exercise: with only a couple of generations of copies, we had some transcription errors (P swapped for R), no-one wants to be a copyist when they grow up, we learned a memory verse, and have a better idea of where the New Testament comes from.

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