▪ Luke’s Gospel records that friends of Zechariah inquired of him what his newborn son was to be named. Zechariah “asked for a tablet and wrote: ‘John is its name.’” (Luke 1:63) According to one scholarly work, the Greek term here rendered “tablet” refers to “a small writing tablet normally made of wood with a prepared wax surface.” Shallow recesses in hinged wooden panels were overlaid with smooth beeswax. Using a stylus, a writer could make notes on this surface. The writing could thereafter be erased and the newly smoothed surface be reused.
The book Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus says: “Paintings from Pompeii, sculptures from various parts of the Roman Empire and actual examples dug up at many sites scattered from Egypt to Hadrian’s Wall [Northern Britain] display the widespread use of the tablets.” A variety of individuals may have had such tablets at hand—traders, government officials, and perhaps even some of the first-century Christians.