The advent of the printing press and the proliferation of the written word on paper was a great and wonderful advancement for humanity. The sharing of ideas, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to not have to remember everything only where to find it, was explosive. Like much of the world, I am a fan of books and the proliferation of ideas.
But we did loose something when we printed on paper. We lost the metaphor of parchment.
Parchment is more costly than paper but it is also more durable. Additionally, parchment is flexible and, perhaps most important to this post, is made from animal skin.
What does it mean to have words written on a flexible and "living" medium? When scripture is written on parchment we get the impression that scriptures are living but also flexible, durable and sacrificial. The scriptures cost something and thus parchment was a wonderful metaphor for such deep truth claims. Much of this was lost when we went to paper.
Paper of course is cheap and thus easy to come by. Paper also is less durable and rips easily. While paper is more common and thus easily shared, it also is more fragile and rigid. Could it be that in our efforts to spread scriptures to the ends of the earth, we have allowed our understanding of scripture to be more rigid?
In the digital age, what does it mean that scripture is electronic? It is easily shared (even more than paper), it reclaims a sense of flexibility (even more than parchment), and it is also much more durable (especially scripture in the cloud). It is also the case that electronic scripture means it is so ubiquitous that it does not cost anything, thus scripture is cheap to come by.
Could it be that some of our debates about the authority of scripture are bound up in the different mediums scripture comes these days?