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by Wayne Blank
By The Book
The Spirit World
The earliest-known writings of mankind were from Mesopotamia, which, as it happens, was also the original homeland of Abraham. These were written in cuneiform on small clay tablets, or on larger barrels or prisms. Although crude by modern standards, they were nevertheless very durable - many thousands of them have been found and translated.
The Ancient Egyptians had large libraries on their famous papyrus, made from fine, but much less durable, reed stalks. The excavated library of Rameses II is estimated to have had 20,000 rolls of ancient knowledge, records and literature. Both Joseph (see Coat Of Many Colors) and Moses would have had access to these vast libraries of the Egyptian Pharaohs.
King Solomon, like his father King David, was a prolific writer (1 Kings 4:32). There were almost certainly great numbers of scrolls stored in both the king's palace, and in the Temple. Unfortunately, both were destroyed when the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, devastated Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (see Why Babylon?)
The Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia) maintained large libraries (e.g. Ezra 4:15). Some of those records were instrumental in the saving of the Jewish people during the time of Esther (Esther 6:1-2), which included many of the human ancestors of Jesus Christ (see also The Chosen People)
The Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece) were famous for their libraries. Peisistratus of Athens and Polycrates of Samos were the first known to maintain libraries, however Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great all kept large collections. Hellenistic libraries were established throughout the civilized world. It is recorded that Antony gave Cleopatra a gift of 200,000 scrolls in 41 B.C.
The Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) maintained libraries, though in a declining fashion from the Greeks - more as a matter of status than learning. Most Roman Emperors, including the likes of Nero, seemed much more interested in detaching people's heads, rather than improving the quality of the knowledge that was inside of them.
Fact Finder: Did the apostle Paul have his own collection of scrolls?