I had the opportunity today to attend my family’s church for the first time this term. The sermon was focused on the Gospel of St. Mark. The pastor spoke eloquently about the grammar of this text, the Greek translation and the resulting incomplete sentences that start and finish this gospel.
I realized at that moment I had made some deep connections to my learning this term. The reason was my internal dialogue during the sermon. The Pastor was extremely surprised that the text of St. Mark included incomplete sentence but I was not.
Immediately I thought about how early texts were created. This Gospel of St. Mark, copied ever diligently by scribes throughout the centuries, was one of the earliest Christian texts. The original writer, St. Mark, was from a primarily oral culture. His thinking and therefore his writings reflect his orality. When this text was created the predominant text technology was the scroll (Ong, 1982 ; Bolter, 2001, p. 21) The technology of the scroll only allowed for a limited length of text and did not “contribute to any cultural sense of closure” (Bolter, 2001, p.78) If these texts were created from an oral tradition there were very rarely a dramatic ending or beginning. They just started and ended (Bolter, 2001, p. 78). The combination of St. Mark’s oral culture and the text technology of the scroll, Bolter describes, “They often fall silent, leaving the impression that there is always more to say” (Bolter, 2001, p. 78). Therefore an incomplete sentence at the end St, Mark’s Gospel is not unexpected.
A second reason that I was not surprised at the incomplete sentence ending St. Mark’s Gospel is due to the development of the text technology of grammar. I thought about the rules of grammar and how scribes developed those rules over centuries as they dutifully copied earlier texts (Agarwal-Hollands & Andrews, 2001). Just writing has “transformed human consciousness” (Ong, 1982, p. 77), the rules of grammar transformed writing. As St. Mark wrote his Gospel, the grammar rules we use today about sentence structure had not yet been invented and St. Mark’s primarily oral culture grammar would have permeated his writing (Ong, 1982, p. 81)
I doubt that three months ago I would have had the same conversation with myself. I have been transformed forever in the way that I look at and interact with text technologies.
Agarwal-Hollands, U. & Andrews, R. (2001) From scroll… to codex… and back again. Education, Communication & Information.1(1), 59-73. doi:10.1080/14636310120048056
Bolter, J. (2001) Writing space: Computers, hypertext and the remediation of print. 2nd Edition Routledge: New York
Ong, W. (1982) Orality and literacy. Routledge: London