Question: According to Scripture, how far back in history do we find evidence of writing, and how does this compare with the secular estimation?
This question is of vital significance. For the ability to read and write is at the very heart of how God often reveals Himself:
2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…
Most secular scholars, as well as many theologians, once believed that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because (in their view) writing did not exist at that point in history (approx. 1400 B.C.).
Today it is commonly accepted that writing appeared around 3500 B.C. in Sumer in the form of cuneiform. The surprising thing about this appearance of writing between 5,000 – 6,000 years ago is that it was already well developed, showing up in Egypt and the Indus Valley. Biblically, that puts written communication at the very dawn of creation and the human race.
Scripture records five separate occasions where Moses was instructed by God to write down key events and instructions (Ex. 24:4,7,14; 34:27; Nu. 33:1-2; and Dt. 31:9, 24). Jesus himself authenticates Moses’ authorship of the first five books of the Bible (i.e., “the Law of Moses,” or, Heb.: Torah):
Luke 24:44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Where did Moses get his information from in writing down the history of his forebears, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and from their ancestors all the way back to Adam and Eve? Each generation of the Hebrew people preserved the genealogies of their ancestors, all the way back to the first human couple. Moses eventually compiled these ancient histories and organized them in the book of Genesis. This would include the creation of the universe as God had described it to Adam and Eve.
The original sources Moses used to record these successive “generations” can still be seen in Genesis, beginning with Genesis 2:4: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth….” The book of Genesis is then organized under the headings of “the generations of Adam” (5:1), “…of Noah” (6:9), of Noah’s sons (10:1), “…of Shem” (11:10), “…of Terah” (11:27), ”… of Ishmael” (25:12), “…of Isaac” (25:190, “…of Esau” (36:1, 9), and “…of Jacob” (37:2). This means that Genesis contains the records of actual people and events written down by the people who witnessed them.
Adam and Eve were created as fully mature adults, capable from day one of articulate communication. They lived to be nearly one thousand years old, knowing their children’s children to the tenth generation. As their descendants grew to maturity and moved out into the world, developing villages, tribes and cities, communication over distances necessitated the development of written language. And through this miracle of language transferred to written form, God has continued to speak to mankind:
Ps. 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.