Curious Christian: Why Did the Apostles Write the New Testament Text?
People say well, look, didn't the Apostles deliver their message about Jesus orally first, and if they delivered it orally first, why didn't they just keep doing that. In other words, this second step of writing things down seems to be a later artificial step. What made the apostles do it? Why not just stick with oral proclamation?
That's an interesting question but I think there's some answers to that question of why they wrote things down. I'll just mention a few little tidbits.
One is actually what I mentioned earlier, is the covenantal context they were in. If they had this concept that they were the Ministers of a New Covenant, the idea that there would be New Covenant texts would have been a natural, normal, even organic next step. Just like the Old Testament had texts that documented the terms of that Covenant, you can understand why the Apostles would have already had that in their mind. So that would be one reason to expect written texts.
I think a second reason to expect written texts is based on the apostolic mission itself. Their goal was to lay the foundation of the church and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. Think about the Great Commission. It wouldn't have been long, though, before the Apostles began to realize that that goal was not going to be able to be accomplished always in person. You can't always deliver every message orally. They can't travel to every church. They can't get to every place. If they were going to be effective in their mission, they needed to have some way to replicate their message more rapidly, and writing things down would have been a practical step for that.
The last thing I'll mention is I think the awareness of the Apostles' own limited lifespan. In as much as the Apostles begin to age and die out, I think the urgency to write would have increased.
Dr. Michael Kruger
President, Reformed Theological Seminary