Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Oral Roots of the NT

In the case of either the Gospels or the Epistles the Word was oral well before it was written. We reverse the process today when we read the text of the New Testament out loud and then proclaim and declaim on the basis of it. Thus, it is fair to say that when we tell the story of the New Testament, we are telling the story of a second-order phenomenon, the story of the literary residue of a largely oral movement which grew on the basis of preaching and teaching, praying an praising, and other forms of oral communication. It was not mainly, in the earliest period of Christian history, the texts that spread the Word, but rather the oral proclamation.

(Ben Witherington III, The New Testament Story. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004, p. 5.)