In an informal talk before the Y. M. C. A. last evening, Rev. Brooke Herford discussed "The Place that Ordered Tradition Occupied in the Bible." One is apt to make the mistake, he said, that tradition in the ancient world was like tradition in our days. Oral tradition in its carrying power, is in the present day very untrustworthy, but with ancient tradition it was different, while with us the faculty of memorizing is considered as merely an amusement, with them, oral tradition was law book, title-deed of property and method of religious instruction. Memorizing was a fine art and was cultivated to an extent almost inconceivable. The Hebrews did not put their psalms on paper; trained men learned them. For centuries, the Vodas were repeated from one generation to another. Among the many instances of the powers of the cultivated memory is that of the inhabitants of the Polynesian Islands, who living 5,000 miles apart, where no communication was possible, have kept traditions, dating back over 700 years, to a time before the migration of the tribes.
What writings the ancients had were kept in monasteries, where the common people could not get at them, and, in consequence men came to rely entirely upon their memories.
The Hebrews were very careful about their traditions and from internal evidences, it is only fair to to believe that the writers simply patched together their traditions without attempting to rewrite.