Do we have evidence of oral traditions as sources for the gospels?

One of the more informative biblioblogs that I generally appreciate is Michael Kok’s The Jesus Memoirs: The History and Reception of the New Testament. Lately Michael Kok has been posting “course materials” setting out in easy-to-read summaries the basics of the various New Testament books. I have been unable to keep up with all of them … Continue reading “Do we have evidence of oral traditions as sources for the gospels?”


Bart Ehrman: Jesus Before the Gospels, Basic Element 3: Oral Tradition

In the previous post, we looked at the basic element of form criticism. Bart Ehrman in Jesus Before the Gospels uses the findings of the form critics to explain a commonly held assumption in NT scholarship. Many, if not most, of today’s critical scholars believe the stories found in our canonical gospels survived orally over a … Continue reading “Bart Ehrman: Jesus Before the Gospels, Basic Element 3: Oral Tradition”


The Oldest Oral Traditions in the World

How old can an oral tradition be? How long can a social memory exist? Surely much depends on the stability of the social organizations that sustain them. But can we imagine a story surviving through generations over 7,000 or even 30,000 years? Scientists studying certain species of palm trees curiously surviving in Central Australia may … Continue reading “The Oldest Oral Traditions in the World”


Evidence for Pre-Gospel Oral Traditions and Related Questions

It’s easier for me to address these thoughts posted as a comment to my previous post with a new post here. I’ll try to take a crack at it. I’m not saying I agree with all of the following, but I think it’s essentially how we got here. How we got here (i.e. to the … Continue reading “Evidence for Pre-Gospel Oral Traditions and Related Questions”


How do we know the stories of Jesus were preserved by oral tradition before the Gospels?

One book I enjoyed reading this year was Tom Dykstra’s Mark, Canonizer of Paul. (The link is to an earlier post of mine on this title.) I see the book has been promoted on the Bible and Interpretation site, too. Tom Dykstra begins with a discussion of Mark’s sources and purpose referring to about half … Continue reading “How do we know the stories of Jesus were preserved by oral tradition before the Gospels?”


Is the Gospel of Mark’s Syntax Evidence of Oral Tradition?

I’m posting here just one more detail from Barry Henaut’s disagreement with Werner Kelber’s argument that our earliest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, originated as an attempt to capture stories that came to the author via oral traditions. After this we will dive more deeply into the question of oral traditions being the source of the … Continue reading “Is the Gospel of Mark’s Syntax Evidence of Oral Tradition?”


Jesus the Oral Performer: Questioning an Oral Tradition behind the Gospels

All four canonical gospels . . . supply us with the general picture of Jesus as speaker of authoritative and often disturbing words, and not as reader, writer, or head of a school tradition. Insofar as he is featured as a prophetic speaker and eschatological teacher, moving from one place to another, surrounded by listeners and engaged in debate, the gospels will have retained a genuine aspect of … Continue reading “Jesus the Oral Performer: Questioning an Oral Tradition behind the Gospels”


Doubting an Oral Tradition behind the Gospels: The Parables

All posts in this series are archived at Henaut: Oral Tradition and the Gospels (This post extends well beyond Henaut, however.) . I have recently posted insights by John Drury and Michael Goulder into the literary character of the parables in the gospels. (The vocabulary and themes are part and parcel of the larger canvass and … Continue reading “Doubting an Oral Tradition behind the Gospels: The Parables”


Is Oral Tradition Like the Old Telephone Game?

Long distance runaround In several of Bart Ehrman’s books on the New Testament, he likens the transmission of traditions about Jesus’ words and deeds to the old telephone game, or as our friends in the Commonwealth call it, Chinese whispers (now often considered offensive). He refers to this model in his lectures, too, telling it roughly … Continue reading “Is Oral Tradition Like the Old Telephone Game?”


Is Oral Tradition Really Behind the Gospels? — another Kelber argument considered

This post continues with the series on Barry W. Henaut’s Oral Tradition and the Gospels, a critique of the assumption that oral traditions lie behind the gospel narratives. I have added to Henaut’s case more extensive quotations from works he is criticizing so we can have a better appreciation of both sides of the question. … Continue reading “Is Oral Tradition Really Behind the Gospels? — another Kelber argument considered”


Oral Tradition Taken for Granted (continued)

Let’s continue with this series that I left hanging nearly a year ago now. . . . We’re looking at the way oral tradition has been assumed to lie behind many of the Gospel narratives about Jesus and at the arguments that have been marshaled to support that assumption. We are basing these posts upon … Continue reading “Oral Tradition Taken for Granted (continued)”


Rabbi Jesus and the Phantom Oral Tradition

How did the Gospel authors learn about Jesus? They are generally thought to have only begun writing forty years after the death of Jesus — from the time of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple around the conclusion of the Jewish-Roman War of 66 to 73 CE. Historical Jesus scholars have (reasonably) assumed that that … Continue reading “Rabbi Jesus and the Phantom Oral Tradition”


Taking Oral Tradition For Granted: Bultmann (2)

This post continues on directly from Taking Oral Tradition For Granted: Bultmann (1). Barry W. Henaut is arguing that scholars have taken for granted the assumption that the Gospels drew upon oral traditions about Jesus, or sources like Q that drew upon oral traditions, for their narratives. This is not to say that Henaut argued … Continue reading “Taking Oral Tradition For Granted: Bultmann (2)”


Taking Oral Tradition For Granted: Bultmann (1)

That the stories and sayings of Jesus were circulating by word of mouth before the Gospels were written is generally a “fact” taken for granted today among New Testament scholars. That the first Gospel was “made up” the way other fanciful tales of miracle-working heroes were fabricated seems to be a contraband thought in mainstream … Continue reading “Taking Oral Tradition For Granted: Bultmann (1)”