The Apostle Paul expected the vast majority of the recipients of his letters to hear, not read, them. He structured his compositions for the ear rather than the eye. Pauline audiences would hear clues to meaning and structure because they had learned to communicate in a world where those clues were essential to understanding. Recognizable structures and patterns were essential for listeners to organize what they heard, to follow, to predict and to remember the flow of communication. Oral Biblical Criticism examines Paul's Epistle to the Philippians in light of recent study of oral principles of composition and interpretation.
Casey W. Davis is Chaplain and Assistant Professor of Religion, Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York.