CHAPTER IX
THE COMMON LANGUAGE

We are the creatures of habit and convention. Few writers and fewer of their readers realize how much the composition of books is determined by group habits. No writing is the result of free and untrammeled choice. It is a process hemmed in with the compulsions of convention. To think of any author, whether sacred or profane, as sitting down and taking up his pen to write in any way he pleases is as fictitious a picture as the crudest theories of mechanical inspiration. No more can the writer himself than the divine afflatus within him really dictate his own wording verbatim, literatim and punctatim. His viewpoint, his use and presentation of his materials, his method of composition, and his style and diction are only slightly matters of free will or conscious decision. The very language in which he will write was determined before his birth. When the writer is one of our own group, we who read him take these things for granted. In so far as his idiom, his punctuation, the format of his text and his attitude agree with what is familiar to us, we scarcely notice them, but as soon as we move out of our own cultural background into alien or ancient literature we need careful orientation in order that we may recognize the different conventions. The literary habits which Luke thus derived from his environment need for the modern reader some fairly extensive discussion.

All language is social convention, an arbitrary medium of exchange, related to ideas much as money is related

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