Denise Schmandt-Besserat is professor emerita of Art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and has explored the origin of writing and counting. She says:
“Writing may have been invented independently three times in different parts of the world: in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. 3200 BC, was first. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.”
Before the written word, there was “only” the spoken word. Verbal communication was king, which meant stories had to be told and retold to be carried on to the next generation. God has always connected with us humans. Whether or not we were illiterate did not matter. Early on, people who were touched by God told other people about it. Stories were told and retold and became an innate part of their cultural identity. As a result, God is remembered all throughout the world. He left His footprint everywhere. When people started writing, they started writing down God’s story with man, which is His story, or if you put the two words together: History.
Our History with God eventually became the Scriptures – a collection of verbal communication that is, especially the more dated books of the Old Testament. The New Testament is a collection of books written by authors who were already steeped in the culture of the written word and familiarized with abstract thinking. Paul, who wrote at least thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament, is a good example. His letters clearly go beyond story-telling digging deeply into the matter of truth-finding. However, there are still enough people around who do not exactly relish abstract thinking. I personally love the fact that Jesus was a great storyteller. I can retrieve gold nuggets from His parables, while I’m sometimes stumped by Paul’s interesting but hard-to-digest letters. This goes to show that God has something to say for everybody – the intellectuals among us and the ones that like it short and sweet.
The very fact that God hasn’t stopped communicating is a sign that He loves us. He wants to speak to us – verbally and in writing – and He does not want this to be a one-way-street. We can respond to His written communication – verbally and in writing – and then we have what we call a prayer life. Most importantly, we will become part of His story, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?!