Passing On Traditions
Paul writes: "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to THE TRADITIONS that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). In teaching Corinthian Christians about the Lord's Supper, Paul says: "For I RECEIVED from the Lord what I also HANDED ON to you" (1 Corinthians 11:23). Later, in the same letter, Paul says concerning his teaching on the resurrection from the dead: "For I HANDED ON to you as of first importance what I in turn HAD RECEIVED" (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Faith in God has always been based on and rooted in TRADITIONS passed on from one generation to the next. In biblical times, this was ALWAYS done orally, even when one wrote a letter or some other kind of document. All biblical "books" are compositions intended to be "read orally" or "performed dramatically" before an assembly of people. Moses entrusted God's law to the Levites with these instructions:
"Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place that he will choose, you shall READ this law before all Israel IN THEIR HEARING. Assemble the people--MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN, AS WELL AS THE ALIENS RESIDING IN YOUR TOWNS--so that they may HEAR and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, and so that their children, who have not known it, may HEAR and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 31:9-13).
Near the end of Colossians, Paul writes: "And when this letter has been READ among you, have it READ also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you READ also the letter from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:16). "Read" here certainly does not mean to read silently to oneself, but rather to read orally before the whole community of believers.
Similar instructions appear in 1 Timothy 4:13: "Until I arrive, give attention to the PUBLIC READING OF SCRIPTURE, to exhorting, to teaching." (Revelation 1:3 gives the same instructions).
Peoples in Bible times had very few written materials. They were accustomed to hearing and learning by oral presentations. Thus, structure, repetition, word plays, stories, songs, poetry, and the like were indispensable to their faith. Unfortunately, oral reading and dramatic presentation of God's word has largely been lost in contemporary society because of easy access to written works, including the Bible. Experience shows that beliefs of any people are inseparably connected with affirmations of faith they HEAR and SEE PERFORMED in assembled communities. Our strongest beliefs arise from songs we sing repeatedly. The people of God need to work hard to restore this vital aspect of transformational faith building.