Game of telephone?

Are there any resources that prove/show the Jewish culture in ancient times memorized very important events. I hear apologists who talk about this all the time but unfortunately, they never cite any sources or resources I can look up to look into this further.


Can you elaborate? If you are referring to the idea of the oral Torah that should not be a problem to find support for that. Let me know.

Yeah, @Luna

The ancient oral tradition, not just the Jews for that matter, is nothing like a game of telephone. There is a lot of fallacies with that comparison. But the Jews are the most rigorous in transmission of the Tanakh through the ages, to the point of obsession, due to them treating it as the Word of God.

A proof of that is Luke 4, where you find Jesus going back to his hometown just to read a portion of Isaiah, as the custom demanded. Every Jewish family was assigned a portion of the scriptures to memorize and read aloud in a public assembly. So even if all their scrolls are burned or lost somehow, they can still piece the texts together when they gather their people. That’s how serious they were.

But going back to the game of telephone, the reason it was a flawed comparison, is due to 4 rules:

  1. You cannot repeat what was said.
  2. You have to whisper. (to make sure only the whisperer and the receiver can hear)
  3. No one is allowed to speak up and asked to be verified (if what he got is accurate so far, so he can correct it before passing it on.)
  4. They were constrained by time (making them race, without allowance to deliberate and scrutinize their source.)

You can see in all these instances, the rules were made to make sure that the preceding person is not allowed to know if it was being transmitted inaccurately, let alone intervene to correct it. Because that is part of the fun of the game, it was rigged to make sure people got it wrong, so it would make a hilarious spectacle.

My point being it is nothing like the ancient oral tradition, especially the Jewish. Btw, I think I believed I learned it from Lee Strobel’s book. (Which you are of course free to verify the source, unlike the telephone game :wink: )

Hope that helps and I got it, but if not, I wouldn’t mind waiting for your reply if you were looking for something else. Thanks for bringing up this important point though.



Yes oral Torah and anything else that could serve a proof that the culture was accustomed to memorizing things and that it would be difficult to get it wrong.

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Hi @Luna,

Jesus reading from Isaiah in Luke 4 is such an example. And the other one is something I just learn from the Bible elective in RZIM online academy (free endorsement).

The composition of the New Testament.
It was written in a way it was meant to be recited orally. It looks like a long reading, but not when spoken or read aloud. Because the authors wrote them with the expectation that their works were to be read aloud, considering most of their audience were illiterate.

Have we ever wondered why it wasn’t too detailed, or interested in more details (though they served just enough to be historically and archeologically verified), it is because they are written in a way for the listener in those days to learn and remember/memorize the really important information (of events and people and places), not to be bogged down (or cluttered) by non-important informations.

See the way Paul commissioned Timothy in 1 Tim 4:13.
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

Also Colossians 4:16
When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.

1 Thessalonians 5:27.
I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

The Old Testament texts
In fact the whole Tanakh was written in a way it was meant to be recited and memorized. The ancient Hebrew texts themselves only consisted of consonants, there were no vowels. If I only pass you the manuscripts, you will have a hard time reciting it if you haven’t heard me recite it correctly to you. They were meant to serve as memory aids when reciting scriptures.

Other ingenious mnemonic literary device used includes the way the authors took great pain to repeat major Biblical themes in a pattern, so people will remember another event from another text. Their mnemonic cues to recurring themes are in the specific wording utilized. One example of this would be Gen 3:6 when Eve took the fruit and Gen 6:2 when the “sons of God” married the daughters of men. Both uses “they saw it was good (tov) and they took”. They were meant to be audio cues for the audience. You will see it a lot, littered everywhere in the Bible.

My point is all the ancient writings were designed to be committed to memory through the oral tradition.

Mishnah: The Oral Torah
Another Jewish oral tradition familiar to Jesus in His days, is the Mishnah (Hebrew for “study by repetition”) is a collection of Jewish oral traditions, known as Oral Torah. (536BCE to 70CE according to wikipedia). From there you can learn as well what Jesus were probably up to during his early “missing” years before He launched His ministry. Memorizing in those days are important for Rabbis as they don’t have a personal collection of scrolls (in today’s terms, they have no e-Bible to carry around in their smartphones).

A good article to understand that:

I hope they are sufficient for you to learn about the ancient Jewish oral tradition.