Oral Tradition

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    Bailey, Kenneth E.

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    Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels

    "The Synoptic tradition can be compared to an automobile. For a long time we have known that the machine has an accelerator which provides for movement. But the 'car' also has a brake that controls and, when necessary, stops that movement. The many reasons for movement in the Synoptic tradition are well known and have been noted by Dodd and Davies quoted above. While affirming that freedom of movement, it has been our intent here to study the 'braking system' that keeps that movement within limits and assures continuity and authenticity to what is being transmitted. Rather than a modern subjective Western model, we are confident that a traditional Middle Eastern cultural model is more appropriate to the materials at hand."
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    Bird, Michael F.

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    "The Formation of the Gospels in the Setting of Early Christianity: the Jesus Tradition as Corporate Memory," Westminster Theological Journal 67.1 (2005): 113-94.

    "My concern is to situate the Gospels in relation to the early Christian communities and in connection to the Jesus tradition underlying the Gospels. If this concern is translated into questions, one may ask: (1) Do the Gospels aim to reflect or to inform the situation of the early Christian communities? (2) What model of oral tradition best accounts for the transmission of the Jesus tradition leading towards the composition of the Gospels? It is my aim to examine these two questions in order to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the Gospels and the early Christian communities, as well as to understand the connection between the Gospels and the historical Jesus. Furthermore, the answers given may go some way towards explaining what the Gospels writers are trying to achieve." - The copyright on this article belongs to the Westminster Theological Journal. The article has been posted with their permission as well as the permission of the author.
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    Derico, T.M.

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    Upgrade and Reboot: A Re-Appraisal of the Default Setting

    "The blithe confidence with which literary explanations of Synoptic relationships are typically advanced, as if it were only a matter of discovering the right literary explanation, is thus wholly and conspicuously out of place. The oral tradition of the early Church is an undisputed source of Synoptic form and content, and there is every reason to believe that important and illuminating work is yet to be conducted on its role as such. But if New Testament scholars are to contribute to this endeavour, we will have to break our conceptual dependence on a generalized orality and think in terms of specific models of early Christian oral tradition that can be explicitly declared and defended."
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    Dunn, James D.G.

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    Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition

    "...[T]he earliest phase of transmission of the Jesus tradition was without doubt predominantly by word of mouth. And recent studies of oral cultures provide several characteristic features of oral tradition. Much of the Synoptic tradition, even in its present form, reflects in particular the combination of stability and flexibility so characteristic of the performances of oral tradition. Re-envisaging the early transmission of the Jesus tradition therefore requires us to recognize that the literary paradigm... is too restrictive in the range of possible explanations it offers for the diverse/divergent character of Synoptic parallels. Variation in detail may simply attest the character of oral performance rather than constituting evidence of literary redaction."
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    Harvey, John D.

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    Orality and Its Implications for Biblical Studies: Recapturing an Ancient Paradigm

    "Modern scholarly interest in orality began with the writings of Milman Parry in the 1920s and 1930s. Since that time the literature on the subject has mushroomed. In his 1985 annotated bibliography John Foley listed over 1,800 entries related to oral theory, 1,500 of which stem—directly or indirectly— from Parry’s pioneering work...It was Werner Kelber’s writings in the late 1970s and early 1980s that served to increase interest in the relationship between oral tradition and the NT documents. In the 1990s scholars in increasing numbers began to call for a consideration of orality in NT studies... Nevertheless, most biblical scholars continue to examine the NT documents using presuppositions that apply more to nineteenth and twentieth-century literary/print culture than to the culture in which those documents were originally produced.
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    Taylor, W. S.

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    Memory and the Gospel Tradition

    "If studies in the principles of remembering can throw any light on the formation of the early Gospel tradition, they will make a useful contribution to a difficult field. There does seem to be ground to hope that they can make this contribution, helping us to estimate more accurately the nature of the pre-literary Gospel records. The oral tradition was a tradition of remembered words and deeds, so that principles of remembering were involved from the very beginning. And we fortunately have available reports of controlled psychological studies of remembering, made in conditions similar enough to those of the oral Gospel period to permit inferences from one to the other with reasonable confidence. I have in mind particularly studies made by F. C. Bartlett. These studies dealt with the remembering of narrative material; the narrative included both narrative of events and narrative of sayings; memory of the material was checked at various intervals of time from a few weeks to several months; and the remembering occurred under normal conditions, without the distorting influence of special incentives. For reasons like these, Bartlett's conclusions may be expected to throw useful light on ways in which the disciples must have remembered the narratives of events and sayings which came to them from Christ."