Do the Habits of Modern Oral Cultures Automatically Reflect Those of First Century Jews?

My review of “Lord or Legend“, part 5, by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy:

[R]ecent orality studies have suggested that oral traditions–particularly relatively recent, religiously oriented traditions–in orally dominate contexts tend to be quite resistant to change in terms of the essential components. As we will discuss in more detail in chapter 5, oral performers (or “tradents”)–those who regularly recite oral traditions for their communities–are allowed a certain amount of flexibility in how they recite traditional material. But if the oral performer alters anything of substance in the tradition, members of the community customarily interrupt and correct him or her. Hence, the suggestion that a fictional writing from an anonymous author could have overturned established oral traditions about Jesus in the early church must be judged as massively improbable. This is simply not how orally dominant cultures tend to operate.

–p. 44-45

Gary: I have a question. A very simple question: How can anyone know whether first century Jews followed the same rules of story telling as oral cultures do today?

Answer: Who knows. That was 2,000 years ago!

Christians often assume that because the Temple scribes were meticulous in maintaining the uniformity and accuracy of copying the Torah that a bunch of Galilean fishermen would do the same. Are you kidding me! That is like comparing the documentation habits of the librarians at the Smithsonian with the bookkeeping habits of a bunch of Louisiana shrimp fishermen. Come on!

In the Book of Acts and in Paul’s writings, is there any mention of Jewish Christians sitting around a campfire listening to a “tradent” retell stories about Jesus? If so, please leave that passage in the comments below. What we do find in these writings are stories about the early Jewish Christians reading “Scripture” (the Old Testament) when they met to worship.

And where were most Jewish Christians worshiping for the first few decades after Jesus’ death, at least according to the Book of Acts and the writings of Paul? Answer: in the Temple and in the synagogues. Are we to believe that the priests in the Temple and the rabbis in the synagogues allowed members of the Jesus sect to take up worship time retelling Jesus stories using “tradents”??

Come on.

Evangelical Christians are so desperate to prop up the minority (fringe?) scholarly position that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts that they are willing to grasp at any wild theory to support it.

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End of post.

2 thoughts on “Do the Habits of Modern Oral Cultures Automatically Reflect Those of First Century Jews?

  1. I don’t claim to know anything about oral traditions, or such “transmissions”.

    There is clear indication of at least some traditions being passed along orally, in the NT.

    But – that’s neither here nor there…

    I just wanted to comment on this: “And where were most Jewish Christians worshiping for the first few decades after Jesus’ death, at least according to the Book of Acts and the writings of Paul? Answer: in the Temple and in the synagogues. Are we to believe that the priests in the Temple and the rabbis in the synagogues allowed members of the Jesus sect to take up worship time retelling Jesus stories using “tradents”??”

    Why would anyone expect anyone else to believe that, Gary????

    I mean, I’d say “no, absolutely not – you’re not to believe that Christians had tradents doing teachings in synagogues and in the Temple”… (and I’d add “sheesh”).

    You overlook something else taught in the NT: Christians met house-to-house, and at least for a time, some lived “communally”, and they sometimes met daily….

    Synagogue was once a week, for teachings (generally speaking), and the Temple – while open and available daily – was just not necessarily the place that Jews would go for any kind of “regular services” (as it were).

    So, sure, early Christians still attended synagogues, and still went to the Temple (if they lived close enough). But, those places are hardly the places where teachings were done…

    Like

  2. And yet Bart Ehrman in Jesus Before the Gospels presents evidence of the exact opposite: modern oral cultures do not have a good record of transmitting information accurately over time.

    Like

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