Thanks to yet another Jesus Creed post, this time by Chris Ridgeway, I came across some more interesting ideas about early Christianity and Scripture. Ridgeway's post on Jesus Creed is a review of Tim Challies' book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, which Ridgeway is very qualified to review because he wrote his thesis on media ecology and Scripture.
If you hop over to Ridgeway's blog, theodigital, you can read chapters from his book, which have been a great read so far. Chapter 4, The Bible as Medium, relates to Timothy Beal's points in The Rise and Fall of the Bible:
A new Christian in Corinth would have heard Paul write, "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures," (1 Cor 15.3) and understood the scriptures to be that of traditio, the same scripture Jesus understood scripture—the generational stewardship of the story and the witness of the people of God and the past and present action of God.
And new witness to this story was being written. The setting of the New Testament epistles was the Roman system of roads which allowed swift passage of messengers carrying scrolls. The epistolary form of the New Testament books are not disguised, and Paul‘s writings were spoken orally to a scribe—using the traditional Hellenistic forms of the day—and then delivered by a trusted messenger, who was charged not only with delivery but speaking the letter aloud.
Ridgeway mentions that how these writings ended up as "Scripture" was a thorny question. Many modern-day Christians have super-imposed our view of how the Bible came to be:
Craig Allert explains the "binder mentality" of evangelicals like B. B. Warfield, who viewed each new book of scripture as dropped into a three-ring binder as they were finished—completing in 98 CE when the Apostle John finished the book of Revelation. Allert argues that one does not need to cede a high view of scripture while acknowledging that the church has quite definitely not always equated scripture ("authoritative") with canon ("defined collection"). Indeed, he convincingly shows that the early church‘s conception of scripture was "fairly fluid," compiling a list of apostolic fathers that cite what would be considered non-canonical today.
Ridgeway then gives an overview of the history of Scripture, all the way to the present, and how its form affects our view of the Bible:
[A]s we chart the eras of the people of God, we see that that variations in communications media have meant variations in what the Scriptures were. Yes, it‘s fair to say that writing itself has played a majority part in the history of scriptures. But evidence shows that we cannot associate this with the fixity of the printing press and assumptions of mass literacy. The medium and context of their use, who used them and how they were arranged have changed the perception of scripture through time. Scripture is not a Book.