Most of the knowledge and insight that guides our lives does not come from books. Almost all the important stuff comes to us by word of mouth from people we know and trust. Western society outwardly places a high value on literacy, but the reality is that even in the age of the internet, face to face communication reigns supreme.
2000 years ago, Jesus lived in a society in which literacy was highly valued (among men, at least). Religious teaching was routinely done with a scroll at the ready, and handwritten messages were carried by a highly efficient, international communications network. Jesus himself was fully literate - probably in at least two languages. However, when he set about sharing his message of God’s forgiving love, he did not write down a word of it. Remarkable!
Jesus could easily have written his message down and posted it to every city in the vast and expanding Roman Empire. But he didn’t. He chose to do all his teaching in person - face to face - voice to ear. Why?
Jesus’ message to the world was not an idea or a philosophy, neither was it a set of principles or laws. His message was about relationships: our relationships with one another, and our relationship with God. Good relationship relies on loving, personal encounter.
The truth of God can never be satisfactorily expressed in writing; it requires the direct experience of being known, and loved, and forgiven.
Most of the Bible was passed on by word of mouth before it was ever committed to paper. Our literacy-obsessed perspective tends to distrust that part of the process. But the truth is that written ‘scriptures’ can never be more than an architect’s monochrome plan. The full message of God’s love can only be communicated in the 3D technicolour of real relationship.