Ben Witherington writes a fascinating article on how reading was done in Biblical times, commenting:

“Reading in antiquity involved a different skill set than it does now in various ways, because these document had little or no punctuation, no chapters and verses,  no separation of words—- you get the picture.  Most ancient reading was done out loud, whether it was done by a lector, or you were reading to yourself.”

Witherington goes on to point out that texts, such as the bulk of the Epistles,

“were oral texts in the sense that they were meant to be heard, not silently read— they had oral and rhetorical devices in them which were best appreciated when read out loud,  devices like assonance and alliteration, dramatic hyperobole, onomatopoeia and so on … they were basically orations sent within the framework of letters since they could not be orally delivered on the spot, and they were most definitely meant to be heard— full as they are of rhetorical and oral effects.”

An excellent reminder to us today that when considering the written Word, it is important to remember the oral nature of the period in which it was first set on the page.

Advertisements