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Ancient Biblical Shorthand
"MRY XMS"   

Did you know that there were ancient shorthand writers who took down information word-for-word? We first learned of ancient "shorthand" writers from the Old Testament and other ancient documents.

Psalm 45:1 informs us these secretaries were called "ready writers" or "skilled writers"…"My tongue is the pen of a ready writer" (NKJV).

Legal Ready Writers

In ancient times historians and government officials needed people who were skilled as ready-writers to document valuable records, even more so than today. (Today we have computers).

In the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament - translated around 285 B.C. - ready writers were known by a name synonymous with tachygraphos, or "shorthand writer." In New Testament times they are called an Amanuensis. (Refer to 1 Pet. 5:12, Romans 16:22, Acts 13:5).


MRY XMS. Can you read that?

Of course you can…it's a crude form of shorthand for "Merry Christmas". But, ancient shorthand writers were far more skilled at this than we are.

Matthew an Ancient Stenographer

We now know that the apostle Matthew was a tax collector who had to take skilled shorthand to do his job. It was part of his "job description."

In 1994 we also learned that the oldest fragment from Matthew's gospel - formerly kept at Oxford Library - is now dated by a scanning laser microscope to be an eyewitness account written by contemporaries of Christ! (The Times, London, 12-24-94).

Word for Word Account

In other words, the tax-collector, Matthew, wrote down Jesus' very words from his Sermon on the Mount, word-for-word! Verbatim! What a wonderful gift to all of us! The very Word of God written by "ready writers" through the words of men…

In fact, it's possible we may even have a small fragment from the original Matthew gospel account. It is called the Magdalen Papyrus P64.

Think of that the next time you read Matthew chapters one and two describing the birth of the Son of God into our planetary history!




Missler, Chuck. 2000. How we got our Bible. (CD). Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.

—-2001. The Magdalen Papyrus. Available from: http://www.khouse.org/articles/2001/333/

Thiede, Carsten Peter and D'Ancona, Matthew. 1996. The Jesus Papyrus. London, UK: Weidenfeld&Nicholson.

D'Ancona and Thiede, Carsten Peter. 1994. The Times, London, UK, 24 Dec. "A papyrus believed to be the oldest extant fragment of the New Testament has been found…"

Author Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins.

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