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Oral Tradition

Discussion in 'Biblical Debates' started by Pah, Nov 23, 2004.

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  1. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/oral.html

    L. Michael White:
    Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin

    It's rather clear from the way that the stories develop in the gospels that the Christians who are writing the gospels a generation after the death of Jesus are doing so from a stock of oral memory, that is, stories that had been passed down to probably by followers. But if we think about the death of Jesus and remember a group of people who would have still been attached to him and to his memory after his death, it must have been a rather stark and traumatic period of time. Many of their initial hopes and expectations had been dashed. All of this talk of the kingdom of God arriving soon seemed to be disconfirmed with his death.

    And yet there's that story of his resurrection of his coming back to life. And it's around that memory, around that set of concerns that a lot of the earliest oral stories about Jesus must have circulated and must have been built. So we have to imagine the followers of Jesus getting together around the dinner table probably and talking about their memories, maybe it was the memory of something he actually said once upon a time or maybe it was a glimpse of an image that they had of him. Surely they thought it was some image of great power.... But the thing that keeps coming back is they tell the story of who he was in retrospect from the experience of what he became through his death and through the story of his resurrection....

    Story telling was at the center of the beginnings of the Jesus movement. And I think we're right to call it the Jesus movement here because if we think of it as Christianity, that is, from the perspective of the kind of movement and institutional religion that it would become a few hundred years later, we will miss the flavor of those earliest years of the kind of crude and rough beginnings, the small enclaves trying to keep the memory alive, and more than that, trying to understand what this Jesus meant for them. That's really the function of the story telling...it's a way for them to articulate their understanding of Jesus. And in the process of story telling, when we recognize it as a living part of the development of the tradition, we're watching them define Jesus for themselves. At that moment we have caught an authentic and maybe one of the most historically significant parts of the development of Christianity.

    We have to remember that Jesus died around 30. For 40 years, there's no written gospel of his life, until after the revolt. During that time, we have very little in the way of written records within Christianity. Our first writer in the New Testament is Paul, and his first letter is dated around 50 to 52, still a good 20 years after Jesus, himself. But it appears that in between the death of Jesus and the writing of the first gospel, Mark, that they clearly are telling stories. They're passing on the tradition of what happened to Jesus, what he stood for and what he did, orally, by telling it and retelling it....

    The fact that we're dealing in oral medium of story telling is very important to the development of the tradition itself because stories tend to be told in some units that can be passed along easily, easily remembered. Sometimes they may even be put in different order or you may only tell certain parts of the story. They're indications that we may have collections of miracle stories that circulated independently and maybe collections of teachings, as well. But, probably the core of all the oral tradition is the summary of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Passion tradition.

    How did this start to get written down, these stories that people are telling one another?

    In the development of the oral tradition then, it seems that over time some of these stories came to be written down, and the use of these summary statements about the contents of the story of Jesus are what came to be thought of as the gospel, the good news, the story of Jesus. But the term gospel, or good news, itself, means just a proclamation of the information, of what happened - The Great Story. And that's what the gospels are, a narrative tradition, the story of Jesus.

    How did the resurrection story get started? We have to remember that the gospels themselves and their full account of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus came a good bit after the fact, a full generation, in some cases perhaps even sixty years, two generations later. So those stories had a long time to evolve and develop. But we can see that they're based on some smaller units of oral tradition that had been circulating for many years before. We see this even in Paul's letters. Paul himself, remember, doesn't write a gospel. He actually doesn't tell us much about the life of Jesus at all. He never once mentions a miracle story. He tells us nothing about the birth. He never tells us anything about teaching in parables or any of those other typical features of the gospel tradition of Jesus. What Paul does tell us about is the death, and he does so in a form that indicates that he's actually reciting a well-known body of material. So when he tells us, "I received and I handed on to you," he's referring to his preaching, but he's also telling us that what he preaches, that is the material that he delivers, is actually developed through the oral tradition itself.

    Now one of the most important examples of this comes in the First Corinthian Letter. On two separate occasions in First Corinthians, he actually gives us snippets of early pieces of oral material which he repeats in a way, so as to remind his audience of what they've already heard. In other words, it presupposes that they will recognize this material. And because we can isolate it out of his letters, the way he describes, we then are able to reconstruct...what that early body of material would have looked like at a time before it's ever written down.Now one of these is First Corinthians 11 where Paul describes Jesus instituting the last supper. And that's one of the early pieces of oral material. The other one is First Corinthians 15 where Paul describes the story of the death, burial and resurrection. In First Corinthians 15, Paul's description of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the earliest account that we have in any written form. And it's clearly what Paul himself had heard and learned over a period of several years. So it's one of those little blocks of material in Paul's letters that pushes us that much farther back toward the historical time of Jesus.

    Now here's what he tells us, he says that Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, he relates it to prophecy. Then he says, "Jesus appeared". He doesn't tell us about the empty tomb. There's no reference to that part of the story at all. Instead he tells us Jesus appeared, first to Peter and then the twelve, next to 500 people, some of whom had already died by the time Paul heard the story.

    Now in each of these two cases it's interesting that we have information that we don't get anywhere else in the gospels tradition. So it's a unit of oral material that is very important to the development of the tradition....
     
  2. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    Also from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/oral.html

    Helmut Koester:
    John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School

    Now what happens as an oral tradition arises about an historical event or an historical person is that, strangely enough, the first oral tradition is not an attempt to remember exactly what happened, but is rather a return into the symbols of the tradition that could explain an event. Therefore, one has to imagine that legend and myth and hymn and prayer are the vehicles in which oral traditions develop. The move into a formulated tradition that looks as if it was a description of the actual historical events is actually the end result of such a development. Only the later writer would bring a report about Jesus' suffering that has the semblance of the report of the actual events, one after another, that happened. One could, for example, imagine that the oldest way in which the early Christians told about Jesus' suffering and death was the hymn that Paul quotes in Philippians 2, about the one who was in the form of God who humiliated himself and was obedient even to death on the cross, and was therefore raised high up by God. This was a very old hymn. Paul quotes this hymn when he writes Philippians, that is, in the early 50s of the first century. He quotes this as a hymn that probably was sung in the Christian communities, ten or twenty years earlier. That is the way in which you first tell the story. And that you tell the story in the form of a hymn also shows that the telling of the story is anchored in the worship life of the community. So here is really the beginning of the oral tradition. And it becomes story as it is retold, resung.... It could be resung as a hymn, but retold as a narrative, again in the worship setting of the community.

    So oral tradition develops as the community looks for a recreation of memory in community life. The same thing also happens to the words of Jesus as they are remembered, because the words of Jesus are not remembered in order to record Jesus' wonderful preaching, but they are remembered in order to find in the words of Jesus wisdom for the ordering of the life of the new community. The earliest quotations or words of Jesus that we have are not in our gospels, but they are in the letters of Paul. And each one of these words of Jesus that appears in the letters of Paul is advice for the regulation of the life of the community. That's where they function. And what does not serve such purpose would not enter the oral tradition....

    We cannot go back and peel the later ecretions away, and outside we have the earliest layer of the words of Jesus, and this is what Jesus must have said, because even the earliest layer of the tradition of Jesus' words has already been formulated, not for the purposes of memory, but for the purposes of community life....

    Why do these stories and these oral traditions finally get written down is the question.... Perhaps because in order to communicate from one community to the other. The only way in which different Christian communities who had contact with each other could assure that their traditions were uniform and could be shared was by writing them down, and by thus exchanging those stories. It could also be written down in order to be used as letters of recommendation. Now let me explain this because this sounds a little strange. We do know that Christian apostles traveled around not only doing miracles, but also bringing records of miracles they had done at other places and at the same time miracles of Jesus they had written down in order to be used as accreditation as they came to a new community....

    And so the writing was for particular purposes, probably this passion narrative was written down also in order to assure among different communities that the story that they would tell of Jesus' suffering in the celebration of the Eucharist would be stories told along the same lines. But even the writing down of a story at one point does not mean that it is now fixed. Because we go from telling of a story to writing of a story, but that written story is now used again in the telling of the story in a new liturgical situation. So that the next process of writing would look different than the first writing in fact was. And therefore we can not just simply talk about a tradition that was once oral and then it's fixed....
     
  3. precept

    precept Member

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    These scholars are missing a most important point. The story of creation was passed on by word of mouth for more than two thousand years; before the written form was given by inspiration to God's prophet, Moses.

    The story of the flood was passed on by word of mouth for two thousand years before the written form was given to Moses, God's prophet.

    The story of the coming Messiah was passed on by word of mouth to Abraham, and also to Job, who lived before Abraham.."I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" Job 19:25
    The same story of the coming Messiah was told to Daniel by God Himself in Daniel chapter 9. The same story was told by God to David, Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi.

    Jesus was a fulfillment of these stories kept alive by God..."Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,'from your vain coversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; WHO VERILY WAS FOREORDAINED BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, BUT WAS MANFEST IN THESE LAST FOR YOU". 1 Peter 1:18-20.
    The above passage makes clear that the word of God pre-existed the first humans; and is not dependent on "human oral carriers". But the rather, God uses these "human oral carriers"; but who are totally controlled by Him as to what they say; just as God comandeered the mouth of Balaam the false prophet who would rather curse the people of God, Israel; but who could only bless the Israelites, be of God's comandeering his tongue...God determins everything written on His behalf in scripture...and He controls what is written in scripture on His behalf...Only His truth He allows that they pass on....somewhat as the "revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to His servant John" Revelation 1:1-3.

    The oral traditions as described by the scholars, traditions that are subject to change and embellishment; are traditions not related to God and His redemption of humanity; but rather these traditions as described by these scholars are in keeping with human visionaries, who are founders of different religions in their own names; and whose disciples recreate fictitous stories; concoctions of their own overactive imaginations; and who keep these visionaries alive in the minds of their devotees.

    The story of God Never changes; no matter the oral transmission. The story of God cannot change; because the Author of the Story is God Himself who "Changes Not!"; And neither will He allow fallible humans to tamper with His truth-HIS STORY.


    precept
     
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  4. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    I whole-heartedly agree with that senario except that, if it was an oral tradition, there would have been no inspiration, no revelation to Moses (or whoever the real author was). In fact, the oral tradition calls the written word into question as far as truth is concerned.
    This opens up the story to alteration because of such things as societal memory loss, incorporation of other myth and legends, and personal agenda.

    I really liked your apologetic reasoniing that all the story tellers were inspired too!

    Bob
     
  5. precept

    precept Member

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    One must not veiw lightly this discussion on "oral tradition".

    This differences in religions, as in religions in Christendom, differ on the "oral traditions" as handed down by succession from the original founder of said religion.
    Evangelical Christendom is a prime example of the gospel of "oral tradition".

    The "gospel of prosperity" is supported by a faction of evangelical Christendom...a gospel not supported by scripture, I might add. James 2:5 makes my point."...Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?"....And in case we forget what kingdom was promised; John 3:16 reminds us of the mansions He has gone to prepare for the same "POOR OF THIS WORLD". Jesus Himself tells us that His mission was "to preach the gospel to the poor" ...Luke 4:18. Despite the plain truth of scripture the preachers of the "prosperity gospel" pack churches in the millions with those who follow this,their own version of "oral tradition".

    More examples of these traditions include the gospel of a secret rapture; despite the scriptures clearly stating that "every eye shall see Him"....Revelation 1:7 This scripture itself strongly supported by the text of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 which states that "The Lord HIMSELF will descend from heaven with a "lot of noise"[despelling a secret arrival]...His noisy arrival will also include "ascending humans to meet Him; both the "dead now resurrected; and the living saints who had not tasted death; meeting together as they ascend to meet the returning Lord. Despite this clear word of scripture those of "oral tradition" teach their followers differently; speaking of the saints being spirited away leaving family and loved ones bewildered as to their whereabouts...In the meantime these, their loved ones were secretly raptured and are with Christ in heaven.

    Oral Tradition has taught doctines such as Purgatory - the halfway station of those on their way to heaven, but who failed to make the gtrade while they were alive; and who with the help of another human can be sprung from Purgatory into heaven.

    Numerous other doctrines such as "once you have accepted Jesus; you can never be lost....despite again; the clear word of scripture by Jesus Himself woh told us that there will be many Christians who will say to Him..."Lord! Lord! We have prophesied in your name! We have cast out devils in your name! We have done wondrous things in your name". These who cry out in despair are without doubt those who call themselves Christians. This would include those who believed in Jesus as their personal Saviour...Since Jesus said to these Christians .....Matthew 7:23"Depart from me! You who are workers of the devil"[workers of iniquity] how can those of the oral tradition be right in proclaiming ALL CHRISTIANS SAVED; NO MATTER WHAT!....Can those of the oral tradition be right and Jesus wrong? If they aren't then those who believe them must also be wrong.

    The gospel of oral tradition has spawned the likes of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Joseph Smith, Herbert Armstrong, Robert Schuller, and a host of Independent churches with each Pastor Leader putting his own unique spin on the scriptures and creating his own unique following. These the purveyors of oral tradition and many other FALSE TEACHERS, have convinced multi-millions to follow their teachings over the clear word of scripture. It is precisely because Jesus KNEW THIS TO BE THE CASE THAT HE ADDRESSED THIS ISSUE IN Matthew 7:23...."I WILL PROFESS UNTO THEM I NEVER KNEW YOU".

    You are certainly right Bob!....Truth is not truth if passed on by oral tradition.
    Hence those who present "oral tradition" as truth are in fact not representing God; they are in truth representing the anti-type of God-the devil!


    precept
     
  6. Rex

    Rex Founder

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    I thought the flood has been proven historically rather than just a story?
     
  7. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    I don't think so. At best, there was a local flood.

    Bob
     
  8. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    I absolutely agree! So... if we assert (as you did so persuasively in your first post) that much (if not all) of the content of the Bible itself was originally oral tradition, then the Bible cannot be true... and since Christianity is based upon the belief that the Bible is true, then Christianity itself must be false...

    Way to fall face down in your own rhetoric!

    Oh... and you might switch the "T" and the "t" in your "truths"... I think you got them backwards.
     
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  9. precept

    precept Member

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    You do agree! Though unknowinginly to your own folly. It is true, that you have quoted me correctly and concluded as I had. However, you omitted to also conclude as I had also quoted in my post that
    On the other hand reffering to the oral tradition as handed down in succession by humans I said aand I quote
    If you had bothered Oh "lettered one" to read the entire text, or having read the entire text, if the one of "letters" had understanding, he/she would not have bungled in concluding that


    Now look to your own words! Oh "lettered one"! as in your above quote.

    "Falling face down" on your own sword is a most merciful way to avoid your demise at the hand of another.

    Spelling "Truth" with a "T" or a "t" doesn't make it "Truth" if is a "Lie". And since you fell "face down" on your own sword, then your version of "truth" must have been itself, the lying version; hence your spelling "truth" with a "t" still wouldn't change your lying version; no matter that you switched "forwards" the "T" to make it a "t".

    If your above "presentation" is a sample of your "work"; I would rather not vist your advertised sites. I think I have seen enough of your "passion for writing" to make me conclude that your "passion" has been misplaced.

    A good question; but do you really understand your own question?

    "Genotype": The particular combination of genes present in the cells of an individual.

    "Phenotype": The physical manefestation of a genetic trait.

    You are quering whether "my" genotype matches "my" phenotype. If you had understood the relationship between one's genotype and phenotype, you would have also understood that it is impossible for one to not express his own unique phenotype. One's genotype,is but a genetic map contained in each body cell; just a replica, a copy of the entire "you" kept in the body's files[the cells].

    But if you "must read", read with understanding!


    precept
     
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  10. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    Of course, I did not conclude as you did in your quotes. They are assertions only, based upon your undertanding of God's Word and a self-serving understanding of oral tradion.

    Bob
     
  11. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Ya really gotta love it! :biglaugh:
     
  12. Ronald

    Ronald Well-Known Member

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    Yep! Like the pot calling the kettle, black!
     
  13. Mr Spinkles

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    I would say it was more like the pot calling the pot black...
     
  14. precept

    precept Member

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    Precept

    The forum members will judge!


    precept
     
  15. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    First, I hope you have some evidence to back up that statement, because simply writing it down—even in that most impressive bold font with such fancy sporadic capitalization!—does not make it true.


    Second, if one is to assume that by "the story of God" you mean "the Bible" (since I honestly can't think of any other place Christians believe they have a record of the "story of God"), then we will have to look directly at the Bible for evidence to the contrary.


    You, I'm sure, believe the Bible is a divinely inspired history. I believe it is a collection myths—no more true than Greek or Roman mythology. Whatever our separate beliefs about the truth of the Old Testament, I'm sure we will both agree on one thing. Rather than being written all at one time by one person, the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament were slowly written over the course of several centuries by many different writers.


    What absolutely baffles me is how you can believe that the stories have remained unchanged, despite centuries of oral retellings, numerous translations into different languages (which the scribe could undoubtedly translate certain words to reflect his interpretation of what the text said), and differing accounts of events in the Bible itself. In order for the stories to remain unchanged, it really would take an act of God... or a really overactive imagination.

    If the "story of God" has remained unchanged, then explain the following to me:

    It is interesting to note that if you read the Bible (whether you're looking at a story in the Old Testament or one in the New Testament), you'll find that many of the stories are told more than one time... and you begin to notice that the stories change subtly in the retellings.

    If the Bible is the "story of God" and the "story of God" cannot change... then why are there changes in the Bible?


    Wow, that joke just went right over your head, didn't it? I hate to break it to you, but you completely and totally ruin jokes by over-analyzing them. :rolleyes:

    Oh, and thanks for educating me on the meanings of genotype and phenotype... I really wasn't sure I what they were, even after three years of biology!

    Did you honestly have to look those terms up? :biglaugh:


    No it doesn't. It makes it clear "human oral carriers" knew that the accuracy of their stories would be suspect by their very nature as oral tales, and so claimed divine revelation to lend authority to their words. Again, this does not prove that the words of God pre-existed the first humans... it merely means that Christians THINK they do.


    Right... so God controlled them so that they said various ridiculous and contradictory things? Fascinating!


    Yours must be a very confused God then (or one who is playing an elaborate joke on mankind)... because the Bible is wrought with numerous contradictions.
     
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  16. Ronald

    Ronald Well-Known Member

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    No matter what there is enough God breathed Truth in the Scriptures for anyone who is called of God to come to know Him and become saved and then become obedient then be chosen for entry into Gods Kingdom! No Matter what! ;)
     
  17. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    And for those of us who aren't called by God, well... there's always Dr. Seuss!
     
  18. Ronald

    Ronald Well-Known Member

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    There u go!!! Dr Seuss!
     
  19. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    Actually I prefer scholars to be the judge.

    Bob
     
  20. precept

    precept Member

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    The bible was authored over a period of more than fifteen hundred years; and by more than forty different human authors who had no knowledge of each other's work. Yet despite your many allusions to contradictions you have yet to document a single such contradiction.


    And so we should. I await your evidence of such contradixtions.


    Your argument makes the point that there should, in fact, be numerous contradictions. I await your display of a single contradiction from the numerous contradictions you presume to be.

    I would have loved to explain but you omitted to give an example a story subtly changed in its retelling.

    you have yet to submit any example of any such change in the bible.

    Not to worry. It's just that when looking up for explanations in the biology book I recognized that there was just a little more information in the Genetic text.

    Learning is always a good habit to practice...and learning from those knowledgeable in genetics is no exception.

    You ought not to make these assertions if you have no evidence to support your allegations. Its called Put up or shut up.

    Again evidence! evidence! Where is the evidence of "contradictory things" you say are in the bible.

    For the last time...Present your evidence!


    precept
     
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