One of the books I’m pouring over lately is Inspired Preaching: A Survey of Preaching found in the New Testament, by Richard C. Wells and A. Boyd Luter. I’m reminded of some ideas that may prove interesting to you today.
When we think of the writing of the Gospels and Epistles, all too often we imagine a lone figure sitting at a desk with a parchment and quill. This image is reinforced again and again in church pageants, paintings, and other artistic performances. It is easy to think that, just as much of our written communication today takes place in varying degrees of solitude by a single author, so it must have been in the days when the books and letters of the New Testament were written.
Wells and Luter argue against such a “solitary writing” conclusion, presenting strong biblical and cultural evidence that suggests the New Testament was written in rooms containing at least three people at any given time:
1. The Speaker/Author
2. The Scribe/Editor
3. The Courier/Reader
Wells and Luter hold that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God and without error, and were recorded utilizing this multiple-person process. (I’ll attempt to summarize here, but I recommend you check out the book itself for a more detailed explanation, as well as a wonderful explanation of the culture of that day regarding written and spoken communication.)
The Speaker/Author dictated his thoughts aloud to the Scribe/Editor. In the case of the Gospels, the Speaker/Author would call upon his past preaching exercises of the Good News for content. The Scribe/Editor then took these spoken words and wrote them down, repeating out loud what had been written to the Speaker/Author, so he could verify that the words on paper were the correct words to record (While the use of the word “Editor” may suggest having the final say in word choices today, in ancient days the final say was firmly held by the Speaker/Author).
While this process of speaking and writing and editing was going on, the Courier/Reader would sit back and observe, listening to the exercise between Speaker/Author and Scribe/Editor, understanding the content and learning the places in the communication where the Speaker/Author added verbal emphasis.
Once the document was completed, the Courier/Reader was charged to take the writing to the designated land and publicly read it to the chosen audience, driving home the original author’s points emphasis and delivering the message in a way that accurately reflected the author’s intent. During the time of travel, the Courier/Reader would have had time to review and even rehearse the public reading.
It is not a stretch of faith to recognize that since the Lord wished to inspire the writing of the New Testament, it is just as easy for Him to inspire a multiple-person process as it is to inspire a solitary person at a desk with quill and parchment. We still recognize Matthew as the Spirit-inspired author of the book which bears his name, for instance, but when thinking of the creation of the first Gospel of the New Testament we may wish to remember the unnamed scribe and courier that were probably part of his “writing team.” Then, as now, the primary purpose for publishing the Gospel story was to have it declared; read aloud publicly so that people would hear, understand, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Today, when the church comes together to hear the preaching of the Word, our intent should be similar to the small teams which put the Good News together in written forms. The members of the church should be working in concert to “deliver messages” through their kindness and good deeds that reflect the good news of the Gospel of Christ so lost souls will turn from sin and find the Lord ready to embrace them with the gift of salvation.
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