Hear Ye the Word of the Lord: What We Miss If We Only Read the Bible, By D. Brent Sandy
Hear Ye the Word of the Lord
  • Length: 216 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: March 12, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0298
  • ISBN: 9781514002988

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Long before the words of the Bible were written, God's communication through the spoken word rang out loud and clear. Jesus in particular commissioned representatives to speak on his behalf even during the time of his earthly ministry. And yet today we are a reading culture. It is easy for modern Christians to take for granted that the Bible was handed down in written form, but the way we receive God's message is far different from how the original hearers would have heard it. These differences not only shape the way that we hear God's message to his people, but they put us at risk of misunderstanding his revelation.

In Hear Ye the Word of the Lord, biblical scholar D. Brent Sandy explores how oral communication shaped the ways that biblical writers received God's message—and even more importantly, how the ancient and modern faithful receive it through hearing. Filled with helpful biblical insights related to oral communication and constructive ways for modern readers to become better hearers and performers of Scripture, Hear Ye the Word of the Lord provides a constructive way forward for readers interested in exploring how we can better hear God's Word.

"To read well, we have to listen well. This book shows how God communicated for the ear, not primarily for the eye. Realizing this can help us hear, heed, treasure, and rightly handle the Word of life."

Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Robinson Chair of Preaching and Communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and author of Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture

"Long overdue, Sandy's latest contribution reminds digital natives around the globe of the 'big forgot' in relation to canon construction, interpretation, and communication—its original oral nature. The Bible's relational, experiential-based text, Sandy correctly concludes, requires an oral hermeneutic. Such will offer 'hearers' a richer, more robust understanding of Scripture without devaluing the inspired text. Timely, thorough, trustworthy."

Tom Steffen, professor emeritus of intercultural studies at Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University, and coauthor of The Return of Oral Hermeneutics: As Good Today as It Was for the Hebrew Bible and First-Century Christianity

"Brent Sandy's work on the orality of the gospel for the first two centuries has tremendous implications for the relation between church and Bible, and even the relationship between salvation and justification. I recommend this book for all those interested in these profound subjects."

Gerald McDermott, author of A New History of Redemption: The Work of Jesus the Messiah Through the Millennia

"What would happen if we reminded ourselves every time we encountered the Bible that most all of its original audiences were listeners rather than readers? What would happen if we tried to read it not in a monotone but in a way intended to animate people with tone of voice and cadence, or if we retold biblical stories true to their historical contexts in first-person narrative? Brent Sandy challenges us to better understand the Bible's orality and reawakens our interest in its content. Thanks, Brent!"

Craig L. Blomberg, distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament, Denver Seminary

"Brent Sandy wakes up readers to the fact that while reading seems natural to us, it was not natural to ancient people, people who first experienced the events of the Bible. With conversational prose arranged in digestible sections, Hear Ye the Word of the Lord offers a fresh approach to this vital aspect of ancient cultures, so that those who hear it walk away not only much better informed concerning orality, but also inspired to engage with Scripture more holistically, creatively, and therefore, more faithfully. Sandy's contribution will tune our ears to listen better to the One speaking to us through Scripture."

Amy Peeler, Kenneth T. Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College

"Because the Bible is written Scripture, it is only natural that we read and interpret it as literature. What is often lost is appreciation for the Bible's orality. In this concise and insightful book, Brent Sandy shows how modern readers can recognize Scripture's oral dimension and reach a whole new level of insight. Hear Ye the Word of the Lord will serve both church and academy well."

Craig A. Evans, John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Christian University

"In the way of Tertullian, What hath textuality to do with orality? Brent Sandy dispels and distills several misunderstandings for modern readers and interpreters of the Bible who regularly forget that people living in biblical times didn't enjoy individual, leather-bound copies of God's Word. Rather, living in oral cultures, they heard the Scriptures read aloud. Sandy takes us on an important journey to appreciate how understanding orality and oral cultures informs our interpretation of Scripture beyond what the world of the written text imparts to us in isolation. This book is a godsend for preachers and teachers who must grapple with both the textuality and orality of Scripture."

Matthew D. Kim, Raborn Chair of Pastoral Leadership at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary and author of Preaching with Cultural Intelligence

"God's Word moved from being spoken and heard to being written and read. As Christianity moved westward, hearing as a community changed to reading as an individual. We now prefer written to oral. Brent Sandy urges us to allow a reader to perform Scripture. When, in a booming voice, the reader exclaims, 'The voice of the Lord twists the oaks,' we feel God's majesty. When the reader shouts 'Hosanna!' the electric energy of the triumphal entry courses in our veins. Sandy reminds us as a group: hear the Word of the Lord."

E. Randolph Richards, research professor of New Testament at Palm Beach Atlantic University

"Why do we pour so much more thought and effort into the preaching and teaching of Scripture than into its public reading? Is it because we neither understand nor value that the authors of Scripture, communicating in predominantly oral cultures, wrote more for the ear than the eye? If so, then Hear Ye the Word of the Lord is an enlightening corrective, compellingly calling the church not to neglect the power of the spoken and heard Word but instead to adapt our reading and hearing to the ways the initial audiences heard and understood. In this volume, Brent Sandy not only provokes the academic to consider the impact of orality on the transmission and interpretation of Scripture but also provides creative and workable applications for the local church practitioner who wants to elevate the public reading (and therefore hearing) of Scripture in the gathered community of believers."

Kip Cone, lead pastor of Winona Lake Grace Church

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by John H. Walton

Part One: Setting the Stage
Proposition 1: Oral Culture Can Be a Lost World
Proposition 2: God Reached Across Great Distances—So Must We
Proposition 3: Divine Revelation Was Intended for Hearers
Proposition 4: Research Provides Important Insights into Ancient Oral Culture
Proposition 5: The Goal Is to Include Their Hearing in Our Reading

Part Two: God and His Agents of Oral Communication
Proposition 6: Scripture Presents God as the Ultimate Oral Communicator
Proposition 7: God Spoke Divine Truth to and Through Moses
Proposition 8: God Spoke Divine Truth to and Through the Prophets
Proposition 9: God Spoke Divine Truth to and Through Jesus
Proposition 10: Jesus Empowered His Followers to Proclaim the Gospel as He Did
Proposition 11: Jesus' Followers Faithfully Remembered and Communicated the Oral Gospel

Part Three: Implications of Oral Scripture
Proposition 12: Stories Were Performed and Heard in Ancient Oral Culture
Proposition 13: We Can Become Better Hearers and Speakers of Scripture
Proposition 14: We Can Restore Oral Scripture to Its Rightful Place

Part Four: Experiments in Oral Interpretation
Proposition 15: Hearing Is More Than Reading: Understanding Scripture Holistically
Proposition 16: Hearing Is More Than Reading: Imagining Creation and Incarnation
Proposition 17: Hearing Is More Than Reading: Experiencing Jesus' Return to Nazareth
Proposition 18: Hearing Is More Than Reading: Rethinking the Vine and the Branches


General Index
Scripture Index


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Brent Sandy

D. Brent Sandy (PhD, Duke University) taught New Testament and Greek at Wheaton College and chaired the Department of Religious Studies at Grace College. He is coauthor (with John Walton) of The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority and author of Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.