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  • RHS
    Just a couple of ideas to add. 1. When the method of learning is by ear rather than by eye, then hearers have no problem remembering what they heard. They are
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2001
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      Just a couple of ideas to add.
      1. When the method of learning is by ear rather than by eye, then
      hearers have no problem remembering what they heard. They are taught how
      to remember, and are also taught how to speak so as to be remembered
      more easily. When earlier chapters of the FG were read aloud, the
      hearers had no problem remembering the earlier ones. The gospels and
      Paul's letters are full of rhetorical devices designed to be easily
      remembered by listeners. Also, why do we assume that only short passages
      were read out each Lord's Day? We have rather short attention spans
      today, brought about largely by the electronic media. I seem to remember
      that Paul went on for some time at Troas, prolonging his talk until
      midnight. I am sure all those there remembered every word he said

      2. We live in a world of instant communication where books are freely
      available and documents can be instantly copied. The writers of the NT
      documents had only word-of-mouth, and painstakingly laborious methods of
      hand copying of their documents. It is so easy for us to make
      assumptions about the ready availability of documents in the first
      century. We are so dependent on written sources that we can assume that
      eg Mark was sitting on the desk beside 'Matthew' and 'Luke' and even FG
      when they penned their works. The oral/aural world is much different
      from our world. I remember attending a seminar by a specialist in early
      Christian heresies. He went into a long spiel about a particular
      'debate' that was going on in the third century. When I asked him how
      this debate was actually carried out, he was nonplussed. All he had were
      some documents written by this bishop thundering against this heretic. I
      asked him, 'Did the heretic preach to his congregation on a Sunday. Did
      a spy then make some notes and report what the heretic said to the
      bishop? Did the bishop then use those notes the next Sunday in his own
      congregation to attack the heretic? Did a spy there then report back to
      the heretic? Is that how the debate was carried on?' The scholar could
      give me no answer at all. It had never occurred to him to study the
      process by which debate was carried on in the early church. And when I
      asked him the extent to which this debate reached ordinary worshippers,
      he likewise admitted he had never thought to look at that. Now this
      expert was a British professor at a great university. I am not putting
      him down. I am simply using him as an example of where we so easily
      import our instant communication world back to the early centuries. We
      need to respect the power of oral/aural memory to recreate what was
      heard.

      3. Our internet discussion group process shows how easily and quickly
      ideas can travel around the whole world and end up in hundreds of
      congregations and study groups in disparate parts of the world. How did
      ideas and doctrines travel around the early Christian church? As quickly
      and as slowly as donkeys and ships could take them! I think we often
      overestimate the speed with which regional influences travelled around
      and affected congregations throughout the Roman Empire. How long did it
      take the FG to move away from its point of creation? I remember a NZ
      academic talking about the Nicolaitans. He believed he could show
      exactly what they believed, and he quoted from the Gospel of Mark. When
      I challenged him to prove that Mark was freely available in Asia Minor
      at the end of the first century, he was nonplussed. He could only
      instance a couple of Pauline letters being available there as proof that
      Mark was also available!

      4. Look at Corinth. How much did the believers there know about Jesus
      and his teaching? Their basic information came from Paul and Apollos,
      neither of whom had any first hand information about the historical
      Jesus. Like most of the faith communities in the early church, they had
      very little in the way of written testimony about Jesus. They were
      entirely dependent on what they heard from travellers, missionaries and
      the like. But did this make them less knowledgeable about the faith than
      their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem or Antioch? They, too, had only
      oral traditions to give them information about Jesus.

      Let me repeat. The experience of the early Christians in their
      oral/aural society, taking also into account the vast cultural and
      linguistic differences with us today, was vastly different from ours
      today. Most of our tools for trying to work out what those early authors
      had in mind and how their first hearers understood them, arise from the
      processes by which we live and communicate in our world today.
      I am just wanting us all to be cautious about any assumptions that our
      tools can tell us exactly who those first authors were, who their target
      audiences were, and what their basic aims may have been.
      Ross Saunders from DownUnder.
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