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6 thoughts on “Is the Oral Transmission of the Gospels Like the Telephone Game?”

  1. James says:

    Dr. Bock had some great discussion points regarding the reliability of the early Christian church’s oral tradition. My favorite was the image of a group of people at a funeral eulogizing the deceased.

    My only question to him would be if this oral tradition needs to be considered “perfect” in order for us to consider the Gospels as Holy Scripture?

    Also, it was unfortunate that both these brilliant men were culturally insensitive. Dr. Bock called an Asian restaurant “Oriental” and described the telephone game as the “Chinese Whisper” game. Perhaps there is a Australian cultural understanding that eludes me, he did say the term hailed from that part of the hemisphere, but I can’t see how the term is not simply pejorative and slightly racist. It does make me think twice about sending the video out to others. Just had to be honest.

  2. Walter Jay says:

    Just for the records, it’s Simon Smart (not Start), although both names sound good

  3. Darrell Bock says:


    The name Chinese whispers is what the Australian name is for the telephone game. It is why it was used since I was in Australia.

    1. James says:

      Dr. Bock thanks for writing back.

      I do understand that you and your colleague were using an idiomatic name, from Australia, for “the telephone game.” But my problem with the term is that in-and-of-itself “Chinese Whispers” has pejorative racial connotations. Perhaps this is my own American cultural view and perhaps the Australian reasoning for the term “Chinese whispers” does not stem from racial stereotypes, I am open to that. I also understand the predicament of being in another country and discussing ideas using their own idiomatic phrases, that may or may not be PC in our own country, but it would be hard to show this video to Chinese-Americans, who are either Christian or non-Christian, without feeling embarrassed and/or having to give a quick apology ahead of the viewing. I believe these issues are important and should be met head-on and to be honest I don’t have any awesome worked out answers on what to do, but I think the best step in the right direction would be to post a quick disclaimer noting that the video can be seen and understood as being culturally insensitive to Chinese viewers. At least stating the obvious allows a discussion to happen and eases awkwardness and discomfort between us and our Chinese brothers and sisters. Thank you again for interacting with me and thank you for your hard work, study and passion you have for the Body and for the lost. May God bless you.


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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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