The First Writer

I have been enthralled by this edition of John Owen’s Biblical Theology. Originally written in Latin and only translated into English within the past 20 years for the first time since Owen wrote it. It is chock full of great fodder for the historical theologian. Dealing only with things theologically relevant to the period of history between Adam and Christ. Owen addresses Theology in General, The Origin and Progress of Idolatry, The Theology of Abraham, The Theology of Moses, and Evangelical Theology to name a few.

My interest is smitten in particular by a section in which Owen treats a subject on The Digression On The Origin of Writing. He makes the assertion, a rather strong assertion that the very first time there was a written language with letters of any form or kind was when God gave the Law to Moses, that He wrote with His own finger. Owen says,

“The converse conjecture is that writing had no origin before the giving of the Law, and that the letters that God inscribed with His own fingers on the tables of stone were the first of all letters, properly so called. I am of the latter opinion, and so it seemed fitting to me to submit this view to a short examination.”

There is an instance that Owen addresses the Jude account of the prophecy spoken by Enoch in the book of Jude. The question raised would be, If there was no form of written language until the giving of the Law, how would Jude have known about this prophecy of Enoch’s since there is no record of it at all in the Old Testament? Owen reminds us that the Book of Jude was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he (Owen) says,

“There really is no good reason for us to believe that this prophecy of Enoch in either written or unwritten form through all of those centuries from the time when it was first given to that of Jude, or that Jude learned of it either by tradition or by reading it in a book. Is it not credible that he who first entrusted it to writing was Jude, and that he received it from no other source than the Holy Spirit, who produced both the prophecy at first and the inspiration by which it was written down later?…..There is no need of either written books or of tradition for the Holy Spirit to be able to repeat His own language!”

I have to say that it does seem more likely that the reason man does write is because writing is an aspect of the divine image of God, placed on man. God is always the first to be seen doing something and man is always trying to do what God does, usually from an evil motive to be “like God.” But really, is not the reason that man writes because God first wrote to us? I believe that even when an atheist is writing a book to discredit the idea of God, with all the learning and erudition of language he may have, the atheist is still proving the very likeness of God in which he was created. Not because of what he is writing, but because of the fact that he is writing; because God is the first writer. What other creature writes? None but the image bearers of God! So even the atheist, not only proves God’s existence, he proves an attribute of God by the act of writing.

So, do I like this book? No, I love it, and you will too! Get one if you can. I have not found whether or not it is available anywhere on-line to read for free as it is relatively, newly translated. But I am an advocate of turning pages physically and not electronically, so pick a copy of this up. It is actually pretty easy to read compared to the rest of Owen’s works due to the fact that it is a recent translation.

You can buy it here or here.



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