We assume literacy in our day. However, early Christians did not read their scriptures. They didn’t even have “scriptures.” All they had were stories.
Stories of Jesus Christ would have been shared vocally with fragmentary accounts whispered through the community. Any local appointed leaders would have possessed little information or structure around which to engage the new Christians. Letters would have been cherished, copied, and shared vocally. Sermons from visiting missionaries would have been a special occurrence.
Beyond fragmentary accounts, there would have been a special need for more lengthy stories of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is regarded as the basis for such a full account, presentation, or play of the life of Christ.
Whether performed or read aloud to an audience, they would have heard it in their common language and in one sitting.
You might enjoy the following presentation by Paul Larson. So, sit down with some popcorn, relax, and enjoy Paul’s amazing memory as he tells the story of Jesus, word for word, from the Gospel of Mark.
By the way, Paul is using the NIV 2011 translation. You could follow along, but you might lose the feeling of the story if you do.
Max McLean also performs the Gospel of Mark in a more formal environment.
Now, get off my lawn.