Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"but speak the word only" - Original Handling of the Gospels

Around the Tokyo Station

Original Handling of the Gospels

It was in the 15th century that printing of the Bible began in Europe.

So, 1500 years after Christianity was launched in Europe, Christians read only manually copied copies of the Bible in Greek or Latin or did not read the Bible because they had no copies.

It is said that the literacy rate in ancient Greek  was about 10%, and the literacy rate in the Roman Empire was smaller than Greek's.

And it was in the late first century that the Gospels and Paul's letters were written.  And it was between the 4th and the 5th centuries that the Vatican officially selected and decided the constitution of the Bible.  So, almost 500 years, Christian did not have authentic sets of the Bible books if they could read books.

It means Christianity was not taught to the public through the Bible but mainly through preaching in churches for more than 1500 years after its foundation.  But church leaders could read the Bible.   Only they could read and interpret the Bible.  If ordinary Europeans who could not read Latin wanted to learn about Christ Jesus and Christianity, they had to go to church and listen to priests reading the Bible or interpreting it into their own languages.

It is very different from practices of Christians or the general public of today.  Today people can obtain the Bible in their own languages from any book shops or even read it online for free.  Any academic studies or discussions on Christ Jesus and early Christians can be obtained in a similar manner.  

So, Roman citizens or Europeans till the 15th century or so could get information about the Bible and Christianity in a very limited quantity.  And only churches and priests could provide such information.

Especially, in old days before diffusion of printing techniques, any respectable priests could read and write and could preach a sermon based on information they got by reading the Bible.  So, being intellectual or learned is an essential condition to be priests or Christian leaders.

In this context, the Gospels and Paul's letters were not written for the general public.  But they were written for Christian leaders in the Roman Empire who would read out the Gospels for others or lay believers.  In other words, the Gospels were written for the purpose of being read out in an assembly.  Accordingly the Gospels must have been intended to be dramatic and thus able to make an appeal.

The Gospels were not written for study and exploration of Christ Jesus and God.  But the Gospels were written as an extension of preaching by Christ Jesus.

Therefore, to read the Gospels in a manner as if we were hearing words of Christ Jesus is a right way of reading the Gospels rather than in a manner of studying Christianity.

The Gospels might have been originally viewed and handled in a very different manner than they are today.

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Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.