The fauna and flora of scripture: It is written

John Miles Foley, in his “From Oral Performance to Paper-Text to Cyber-Edition,” maintains that writing reduces “the flora and fauna of verbal art to fossilized objects.”
Here is Foley (his introduction):

“A performance is not a text, no more than an experience is an item or language is writing. At its very best a textual reproduction—with the palpable reality of the performance flattened onto a page and reduced to an artifact—is a script for reperformance, a libretto to be enacted and re-enacted, a prompt for an emergent reality. I start by recalling this self-evident truth because our culturally sanctioned ritual of converting performances into texts submerges the fact that in faithfully following out our customary editorial program we are doing nothing less radical than converting living species into museum exhibits, reducing the flora and fauna of verbal art to fossilized objects. In a vital sense textual reproductions become cenotaphs: they memorialize and commemorate, but they can never embody.”

Click to access Foley.pdf

Foley”s article does not deal with biblical writing (scripture). From the biblical point of view, orality also (as it must) precedes writing. The biblical claim (traditional Jewish and traditional Christian) is that all scripture is “breathed out by God” (theopneustos). Within Judaism, Maimonides teaches that there is a hierarchy of revelation, where the Pentateuch is the most direct revelation. In Christianity, in contrast, all scripture is direct revelation. From the biblical perspective, scripture does not reduce “the flora and fauna” of speech to “fossilised” graphemes on a scroll. I base my view on the divine authority of the Messiah.

So, I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), who said – again and again – “it is written.” Alas, few got it; naturally.

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