Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Orality -- Older than Dirt

            A few weeks ago I listened once again to the famous “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a fiery speech. It stirred a lot of blood in a lot of veins. It is a prime example of the power of the spoken word. And being a fan of speeches, I also recently listened to one of Adolf Hitler’s speeches. Talk about rousing the troops! Again, the power of the spoken word. But these speeches, in fact, all speeches of all speakers in all culture at all points in world history do not hold a candle to the power of the spoken word when orality first echoed it’s way through the universe it just created. That was a long time ago.
            Yes, orality is older than dirt – literally. Dirt came about on the second day of creation; orality burst onsite even before the sunrise of the first day. “And God said[1]; there we have it – the genesis of orality in the Genesis of the Bible. The Trinity did not hold up a placard with “Let there be...” written on it – like some pontificating director freshly hired from Universal Studios; rather one of the trio merely said words. And the power of those words, which was merely an extension of the power of the One who spoke them, was the metaphorical “big bang” that initiated the universe. To the non-believer those words might still sound like a really big explosion, but that is only because they have not learned to interpret the language. That not-so-humble beginning was not the result of some giant impersonal scientific petri dish experiment, but of the Divine Creator Trinity saying something. Orality was the one and only instrument in bringing into existence the trillions of galaxies of which we and our small planet are a part.

[1] As if the “God said” were not enough, we must not neglect the seemingly innocuous opening conjunction of that phrase – the and. In the first thirty-four verses of the Bible this conjunction is used one hundred and two times. It is a Hebraic rhetorical tool for giving emphasis. Genesis opens with “In the beginning, God.” God being the all-important subject. Then, like “a lamp through the whole of this introduction (1:1 – 2:3)” and is used over and over and over to highlight the majesty of this Creator God. (See Bullinger, ­The Companion Bible, 3.) It is further worth noting that each of the following books of the Pentateuch begin with and – emphasizing the continuity of these five books of Moses. We may even say that each of the following sixty-five books of the Bible could (metaphorically speaking) begin with and – emphasizing the fact that the Bible is one comprehensive, complete, cohesive story.

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