Primitive Methods Don’t Suit
Today, reading and writing are common. Letter writing happens daily and book publishing isn’t far behind.
Even the blind and deaf have the means and skills to write out their thoughts, and technology makes it possible for them to communicate those ideas easily.
For most of human history that wasn’t true.
Writing has been around for a long time but the earliest format, engraving on stone, was restrictive to say the least. Just ten commandments required two stone tablets. Tom Clancy’s latest book would require a mountain of rock.
Even when lighter materials like papyrus became popular copies could only be reproduced by hand making it very difficult to circulate documents widely.
If you are of the opinion that following the old paths means eschewing technology, you’ll need a truck to carry your Bible to church each Sunday. You’ll struggle to flip to the book of Psalms too.
Not to worry, though. Since reading wasn’t as widespread in the Old and New Testaments as it is now reproduction and circulation weren’t issues.
But, these facts do raise an obvious question. If written documents couldn’t be shared easily, and many couldn’t read or write anyway, how were community-relevant ideas communicated.
The answer to that question is quite primitive. The most popular form of communication throughout most of human history was the spoken word and the best way to spread important news quickly and widely was through public proclamations.
These proclamations were made by specially designated people in high-traffic locations like the city gates or the courthouse steps. The people appointed for the task were known as the Town or Public Criers and they were clad in special clothing to single them out. It was all very official.
Even as far back as the time of Esther (5th century BC) the King’s official proclamations were communicated to 127 provinces by couriers and criers. It took several months to get the message out but considering the geography and the lack of technology, that’s not bad.
Criers were the interface between governments and the communities they governed. When information needed sharing, criers would ring a loud bell and cry “hear ye, hear ye” – or something similar. Once they had everyone’s attention the crier would then state or read the announcement.
Those who heard the announcement would pass it along mouth to ear, mouth to ear, mouth to ear and so on, but it all started with a public proclamation.
Education, democracy and technology have made criers obsolete. Education makes reading, writing and thinking skills common. Democracy encourages the sharing of ideas publicly. Technology makes it possible for those ideas to spread quickly.
There’s really no comparison between the media of the New Testament and the media of today. Resonant penetrating criers of yesteryear are easily drowned out by today’s most mild mannered tweets.
This brings me to the topic of this post: Preaching. [Read more…]