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Religious Text With A Beat


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I had a quick question I wanted to ask. I've noticed that during the time when a jewish boy becomes a man, he has to sing the Torah. I also noticed that when the quran is read and memorized, it is done in song which is probably why they feel the quran is so beautiful. Now why would people do this? Well if these text were passed on by word of mouth, having them in song would be the easiest way to memorize them. So people kept an oral tradition by singing them since they couldn't read or write them (if they were illiterate). Well i was recently talking to a christian and they said that the new testament gospels were also passed by word of mouth. He claims that the people were illiterate and that the gospel writers just learned the how to write later. This can explain why it took 30 years before the original gospels were written. Whether this is the case or not isn't my concern at the moment. Now if the gospel writing were passed down orally and not written based of other stories and myths, then would it have to also be in song form like the jewsish text before them. Is it written in song form in the original greek? I'm not trying to disprove or approve the validity of the gospel text but it is good information. If they were passed down by word of mouth for years then there should be a rhyme scheme to it. Is there one?

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Interesting questions, Taylork45. I have no idea.

 

Just passing along this link to a Qur'an recitation (Arabic and the English translation).

 

-CC

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I do know that nearly all early writing was in the form of poetic verse. By the time the NT writings came along this was no longer the case. I imagine the reason for the poetic form was they wrote down the poems and then the dual purpose so it could be more easily passed along without the need for writing it (I'm sure someone actually knows the answer to this but I haven't researched it). The word for scribe, in Jewish, however, has its roots in "counter" (as in one who counts), and that's how they kept their accuracy by counting the words so they no longer would need a verse/meter. The Psalms and the like appear "borrowed" from an earlier set of writings but the rest from that time period don't reflect any meter nor do any of the rest leading up to the NT period that I can think of either. The scribes, again, didn't work that way. They simply counted and if they didn't match they (supposedly) tossed their word and started over.

 

We also don't know what the procedure was for learning the religion way back then. We have no clue. According to the quick searches I did (I should have just went to the Wikipedia since it sums up most of what I found) the current traditions formed around Medieval times. This is way to late (obviously) to draw any conclusions about 1st century CE. According to the Jewish websites I visited no ceremony is required so it's likely that is what happened back then (beyond maybe an acknowledgment on your birthday or something...but we really don't seem to know).

 

CC seems to address the Quran, which is good because I'm at a loss to explain it other than singing does help remember things (but I don't know if it's written a specific way).

 

Finally, and a bit off-topic, I also found out that you really don't become a man (or woman) as much as you're now bound by the Law. You are a "son of the commandment" on that day (for a Bar Mitzvah and "daughter of" for a Bat Mitzvah). If you live to 83 you get a second one because the official lifetime is 70 so it's like you're 13 again (12/82 for a female).

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Interesting questions, Taylork45. I have no idea.

 

Just passing along this link to a Qur'an recitation (Arabic and the English translation).

 

-CC

I have to admit that when I learned the Quran could be sung in its entirity that I was impressed. Same with Jewish text.

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Well, a few things, based on what I remember from Latin and Greek classes...

 

The Greeks and Romans did this with their epic poetry, too - wrote it with a kind of rhythm so that it could be sung. (I hear it takes nearly 2 weeks nonstop to "sing" the Iliad.) My last year of highschool we translated about a third of Vergil's Aeneid and it's really cool to be able to hear it in its original, rhythmic intonation. (Incidentally, Vergil did cool stuff like include a lot of words with the letter "S" in the section describing the death of Laocoon and his sons, so that a listener can "hear" the sound of the snakes in the story.)

 

For Greek and Latin, though, the language which writers used for poetry was a very formal kind of language, much like trying to use Shakespearean English nowadays. It was definitely not the same thing the common people spoke or wrote.

 

Koine Greek was the common, informal, conversational Greek which folks spoke in the Eastern Mediterranean 2000 years ago. It is not a poetic form. I have read parts of the Koine NT, and I can discern no rhyming patterns at all. The language is not florid or complex, as it would be with epic poetry, and this makes sense, as the bulk of the NT is comprised of various letters written by the earliest proponents of Xianity. It's a bunch of correspondence, basically, like modern emails or letters, or perhaps essays.

 

The poster you're talking to elsewhere is full of shit, by the way, at least with respect to the NT. Plenty of people knew how to read and write during the Roman imperial period (though the literacy rate was not what it is in modern societies today); in fact the Romans used Greek slaves as teachers. Plus, as I said: the NT is a bunch of correspondence. I.e., letters. I.e., written down, from day one. Nothing oral about them, by default.

 

Anyway. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

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Something else to throw into the pot:

 

"Although the Buddha was apparently an historical figure, what we know about him is sketchy. His prolific teachings were probably not collected in written form until at least four hundred years after his death. In the meantime they were apparently held, and added to, as an oral tradition, chanted from memory by monks, groups of whom were responsible for remembering specific parts of the teachings."

 

Mary Pat Fisher, Living Religions (6th ed.), p. 129.

 

-CC

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Koine Greek was the common, informal, conversational Greek which folks spoke in the Eastern Mediterranean 2000 years ago. It is not a poetic form. I have read parts of the Koine NT, and I can discern no rhyming patterns at all. The language is not florid or complex, as it would be with epic poetry, and this makes sense, as the bulk of the NT is comprised of various letters written by the earliest proponents of Xianity. It's a bunch of correspondence, basically, like modern emails or letters, or perhaps essays.

 

The poster you're talking to elsewhere is full of shit, by the way, at least with respect to the NT. Plenty of people knew how to read and write during the Roman imperial period (though the literacy rate was not what it is in modern societies today); in fact the Romans used Greek slaves as teachers. Plus, as I said: the NT is a bunch of correspondence. I.e., letters. I.e., written down, from day one. Nothing oral about them, by default.

 

Anyway. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Is it the same with the gospels? I mean they aren't written as poetry or in song form? If the first gospel writing wasn't until 60CE then how did they keep track of the story? Did they make everything up sometime around 60CE? Or did they use the Q documents? What are your thoughts?

 

Oh and did something happen around 60CE that would make people want to write the gospel of mark like a war or something?

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Even the early dating for G.Mark is 65CE with late dates to about 80CE (some place it into the 2nd century even). The earliest fragments of G.Mark that we have I believe date to the 2nd century so the dates for authorship are educated guesses. The extant copies are from centuries later.

 

As to events going on during that period there were many. The ones of note in the 60's would be the warm up to the Jewish-Roman war AND in the late 60's (68-69?) you have what could be considered a civil war among the Jewish religious groups of the day. We tend to notice the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and the Sicarri but there were actually many groups we don't really know anything about (I read one essay speaking of about 20 or so).

 

Once the 70's start the First Roman War happens and the Temple falls. The only group left standing is the Pharisees...and they eventually die out. During the assault on the Temple (it was the highest and most fortified spot in the city and so among the last to fall...then they went out to Masada) it's reported that there are so many crucifixions that the Romans cannot bring in enough crosses. That the walls of the city were lined with bodies from the amount of people hanging there. The city was in ruins and bodies were everywhere while the Romans seized it. It would have been a horrible place to be.

 

Once the war ended the very man that was responsible for it, Vespasian (and his son), shortly after rose up and at the year of the four emperors became the most powerful man on earth. This was to the horror of those he had persecuted so harshly not so many years before.

 

So lots and lots of things were happening in this relatively short time frame. Much more than what I've touched on here since my memory isn't that good. This also excludes anything that happened prior to the 60's (the tax rebellion in 6CE by Judas caused a huge problem and when his son later led another uprising that some back then linked to the Roman War, well, that made them pretty unhappy with that entire family as you might imagine).

 

mwc

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Is it the same with the gospels? I mean they aren't written as poetry or in song form? If the first gospel writing wasn't until 60CE then how did they keep track of the story? Did they make everything up sometime around 60CE? Or did they use the Q documents? What are your thoughts?

 

Oh and did something happen around 60CE that would make people want to write the gospel of mark like a war or something?

 

The gospels are written in the same mundane conversational Koine Greek as the letters of Paul (et. al.). There's nothing poetic about them at all.

 

I'm not actually sure how they kept track of the story. I don't know if it was written down from the very beginning, or if it was oral for awhile and then written down. One thing to keep in mind is that the 4 canonical gospels found in the current NT aren't the only gospels ever written. There were others (the Gnostic gospels come to mind, for instance) that were either lost or didn't make the cut. The hypothetical Q Document could be among them. And yes, it's possible that the various gospel writers knew of each other's works, and either collaborated or competed. (Elaine Pagels makes the assertion that the gospel writers were in fact in competition with one another, written by rival followers of different apostles, each attempting to gain more popularity and precedence over the rest, and have control over the developing theology of the early religion.)

 

The only event that springs most readily to my mind around 60 CE is the first Roman-Jewish War, and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. It wouldn't surprise me if the gospels were written down as a first attempt to preserve the recent mythology of early Christianity (which was then simply a fringe Jewish sect) in the face of a possible diaspora. It's also possible that the gospel writers were trying to create a mythology that would appeal to their Greek and Roman neighbors and conquerors. Or, given the horrifying conditions created by the war (which mwc has pointed out), it could be that they were seeking to create a mythology about a savior who would come to deliver them from the horrors of Roman rule.

 

But I don't really know, I'm just sort of trying on ideas here.

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