Oral is Always First

              Of all the books in print, none has ever been more abused than the Holy Bible. In all truth one does not begin a novel, or a lesson book in the middle. No one would understand where the story has come from, nor would they grasp the foundation. This principle could be true about the Bible, but it is not. From Genesis to Revelation the entire thing is not in any sort of chronological order. Not to mention if we begin at the start of many of those books, within a few chapters we are praying for the end of the world. That is because we are not actually beginning at the beginning of the Word. It was not the first thing here, instead its very existence is dependent on the people it talks about. Somewhere along the way of history we have forgotten that this Bible came from someone.

               All books written by the author Ted Dekkar where written by him, there is no doubt or question of his authorship to any novel that comes out attributed to him. Holy Scriptures has a myriad of authors covering several bits of time, and cultural dynamics that makes it unique. It is special and holy because from the first part of Genesis to the last word of Revelation it is the Word of God. Verses from the New Testament say that all scripture is God-breathed, and yet this is not an authentication of the leather-bound collection we might hold in our hands. For what is Scripture? What was the author speaking about? It was not his letter. A proper exegesis is necessary to understanding what exactly is being conveyed. Besides the book of Revelation and Saint John the Beloved Disciple, how many of these sacred authors knew they wrote words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps none of them, and if that is the case the right to resolve what is Scripture must rest with an authority, one that examines the books prevalence in the ecclesiastical society.

               Where did all these things come from and why do we even call them Scripture? We have to rely on a person, or organism outside of the Bible to tell us what it is. The simple truth that it is the Word of God, is never once mentioned in holy writ. Indeed, this phrase comes from outside of this blessed book. It had to come from a person handing on the story. The Creation of the world, the tale of Abraham, or even the flood were all narratives until Moses wrote them in his Pentateuch. When Jesus whom the Apostles followed, lived, he transmitted a body of teaching. These teachings were oral, and never once did he command that anyone write them down. The mere fact that some wrote them down attests to the power of evangelization, which is a need to spread the good word.

               The original transmission of the Christian Way began as an oral body of teachings that rested on some form of authority. It did not begin as a bound text, filled with chapter and verse numbers. There was a body of people who held a special level of power that they could exercise when it came to teaching about the body of Christ, and the true faith of God. We know this from several sources. The easiest can be found in The Acts of The Apostles, which states, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42 NAB). Could we find a more simple reason for how anyone even knows anything apart from the Apostles than from this small testimony? What about from a man that was considered a physician, Luke, who writes, “Just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you…” (Luke 1:2-3a NAB). Evidence abounds that everything was at first transmitted orally.

               The concept of a bound text that is readily available assumes a level of prestige and privilege known only in Western Culture. Today, many parts of the world do not have the Bible in written form, and rely solely on the oral expression of those who teach them. It is even illegal to have in some parts of the world. Not to ignore the times of the past, but a hand written copy of the Bible could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s currency. The mere fact that there is a copy of this text in every hotel room in America proves the cheap cost of printing them today. With the prevalence of mere ‘Soundbite Christianity’ more people are not actually reading the Bible, and why not? Primarily because the human craves the oral narrative, not the expressive written text. Modern culture is obsessed with instant information, which means now more than ever believers have to lead lives that are the new witness for Christendom.

               It is no longer enough to stand upon a soap box and declare the end is near, or that the consequences of our sins is hell. If we remain devoid and ignore the clarion call to salvation in Christ Jesus, then we are destined for eternal damnation, simply by refusing to love the one who first loved us. The printed word is not enough; we must live it, also. If we act in direct unrepentant contradiction of Holy Scripture, then the religion might as well be a sham. We have an example to follow, if not Christ then the Apostles. Their successors are very much with us today as well as the ones the successors have appointed to be priests. If we find it so hard to follow the Good Book, why not be imitators of upstanding men of the Cloth? “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul writes. Hold fast to the traditions handed on to us, which the Holy Bible is part of by the way, and we will grow in our faith, and love of God.

              

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