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Beyond the Written Word


  • Page extent: 324 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.65 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 291.8/2
  • Dewey version: 19
  • LC Classification: BL71 .G7 1987
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Sacred books--History and criticism
    • Qurʼan--Theology
    • Bible--Theology
    • Word of God (Islam)
    • Word of God (Christian theology)

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521331760 | ISBN-10: 0521331765)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published January 1988

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$103.00 (C)

The concept of "scripture" as written religious text is reexamined in this close analysis of the traditions of oral use of the sacred writings of religions around the world. Pointing out the central importance of the oral and aural experience of religious texts in the life of religious communities of both Eastern and Western cultures, William Graham asserts the need for a new perspective on how scripture has been appropriated and used by the vast majority of all people who have been religious, most of whom could neither read nor write.


Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I. Of Written and Spoken Words: 1. Writing and written culture; 2. The print textuality of modern culture; 3. Books, reading and literacy in the premodern west; Part II. Of Written and Spoken Scripture: 4. Scripture in Judeo-Christian perspective; 5. Holy writ and holy word; 6. Scripture as spoken word: the Indian paradigm; Part III. 'An Arabic Reciting': Qur`an as Spoken Book: 7. Revelation and recitation; 8. Muslim scripture as spoken word; 9. Voicing the Qur`an: questions of meaning; Part IV. 'The Lively Oracles of God': Bible as Spoken Word: 10. The spoken word of Christian holy writ; 11. God's word in the desert; 12. Hearing and seeing: the rhetoric of Martin Luther; Conclusion.


"The implications of this book are extensive...Graham has convincingly shown that useful and meaningful study of 'scripture,' of sacred texts, past, present or future, has to reckon with both the spoken and written word." America

"Graham's recovery of the oral/aural tradition in Beyond the Written Word is a model of scholarly precision and richly suggestive for other, related investigations. His documentation is extensive, his writing pleasantly free of jargon, and his bibliography impressive. Graham makes a compelling case for reassessing Christianity's dependence on the written text." The Christian Century

"This thoughtful, innovative, and very-well-researched work, initially published in 1987 and now reissued as a paperback, has the potential to deliver the scholarly equivalent of a knockout punch. The author's aim is sure. His timing and technique is flawless. But the target comprises a set of attitudes so subtle and yet so conspicuous that it is all but impossible to find where to land the blow. As a result, the full impact of the argument has at once a stunning and stimulating effect." International Journal of Middle East Studies

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