Faith Comes By Hearing

Public speaking is infamous for being the least favorite subject of a great many students. For most of us, it’s a course we take only once in school but never quite use outside of it. We’re not often called upon to deliver a rousing speech unless an important occasion such as a wedding arises. Even then, we usually just let our hearts guide us as to what to say and hope we don’t say anything stupid (or at least, the wine is a good vintage and nobody really remembers anything that was misspoken).
But in the ancient world, public speaking was one of the most important skills there was – it’s probably as important as reading is today. Aristotle said that it was: “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” It came to include five canons – invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. It became an ancient art form right alongside grammar and logic. Public speaking, a.k.a. the art of discourse or rhetoric, truly was the skill of persuasive speaking. Words had the power of turning the tide of war, correcting injustice, opening the door to peace … but they could be just as destructive.
Simply put – it’s not just what is said, but how someone says it. It’s not something you read in a text – but hear in the inflection of a voice. Perhaps you need to learn what to listen for:
Text: Casey at the Bat – https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/casey-bat
Audio: Casey at the Bat by DeWolf Hopper – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s4Tk1L-iUs
Audio: Casey at the Bat by James Earl Jones – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xWtysMlrcA
“Faith comes by hearing …” Romans 10:17 mentions – perhaps that’s because reading wasn’t exactly something everyone could do. Whereas hearing was something almost anyone could do. So trained rhetoricians were the sort of people who could read what others could not and recite it so that whomever heard it could memorize it easily. You see, the Bible was not written to be read individually, it had no chapter and verse divisions. It was meant to be heard collectively. If you wanted to hear a part of that last section – odds are they’d read the whole thing to you. So a verse was never heard outside of it’s context.
So if you want to come to hear the Bible as the original audience did – pick up a good dramatized bible, one that isn’t something just reading the text with a monotone voice – find someone who reads the natural rhetorical rhythms of the text intact – the ups and downs, hints of frustration or bemusement, and lets all the emotions of the Word show. Perhaps you’ll hear something that you missed while reading it.

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