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Rickswordfish

Oral traditions reliable?

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     There's no way to know what is true when it comes to things like this.  There's some educated guesses and a lot more speculation.

 

     I got into a bit of an argument some years ago with another member here over the meaning of stories.  It went on awhile but the basics of it were, as I recall, were how a story can mean different things to different people and what that can mean to us.  I was arguing that, for things like the gospels, it would be important to know what the story actually meant originally.  The other person argued that this wasn't important and what it meant to us now was what was important.  Now, this is a black and white view and there can be lots of gray here but I thought that would be beside the point and never considered it when having our "discussions" (they usually evolved into something less than civil).

 

     I bring all this up because I think it is relevant here.  In order to know the "truth" as it were we really do need to know the original meaning of these stories.  And if there is one singular meaning at that.  It's commonly assumed that the stories are some sort of history and everyone thought of them in that way from the very start but perhaps that this is not the case?  Perhaps they started as something else and later became to be thought of as a sort of history?  Or some other sort of thing(s) I'm not thinking of here?  We cannot know this but it seems important.  Even if every single word of the story is somehow transmitted without error since day one (which we know isn't exactly the case) the meaning of the stories, like the text in all of our messages that are posted day in and day out, aren't transmitted along with those words (which is why we created emojis and other image embedding to help overcome that limitation although even with those aids it still fails and meanings change not only over time but in the blink of an eye).  We would also need to know if everyone shared the same understanding these stories back then or if they were also fragmented as we are today but in their own ways.

 

     So I believe that there was an oral tradition that pre-dates the gospels as we have them.  It's perfectly reasonable.  What exactly it was and what it was preserving I think are the questions that we lack information enough to answer.  We have no real context for the words that were finally written down.  Is it an oral history?  G.Luke tries to pretend to be but it's essentially just a version of G.Mark and G.Mark appears to just be something that may well be made from a pre-existing tradition.  Perhaps an oral tradition but not actual oral history.  Even in the epistles they speak of traditions handed down orally but without any wider context which would place them within a gospel history.  It's just easy to assume to these things naturally come from what is assumed to be actual history as opposed to a tradition.  We just need to uncover the origin of these traditions.  It may be from a real history, but that real history doesn't actually have to be the history that is portrayed in the gospels meaning one of the life of jesus, or it may well be from something else.

 

          mwc

 

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Just to muddy the water a little more. Apologist generally date the Gospels from AD 50 to AD 90. Historians favor dating the Gospels       from sometime after AD 70 to AD 125 + or - a few years. 

 

Pauls’s Epistles were not “discovered” until the second century by Marcion. That has led to speculation that Marcion was the author of Paul’s Epistles. Historians know for certain that Marcion and Simon Magus created a Gnostic version of Christianity that was the most popular version for quite some time; and many present day denominations continue to embrace that concept. Believers that favor salvation by faith thru grace not of works prefer Marcion’s theology. 

 

Since no writings prior to the second century have apparently survived that has opened the door to a lot of speculation. It also must be considered that there were other stories about  dying and rising God/men that came to save their people, long before the Jesus story appeared on the scene. The Jesus story wasn’t unique. 

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7 hours ago, Geezer said:

Just to muddy the water a little more. Apologist generally date the Gospels from AD 50 to AD 90. Historians favor dating the Gospels       from sometime after AD 70 to AD 125 + or - a few years. 

 

Pauls’s Epistles were not “discovered” until the second century by Marcion. That has led to speculation that Marcion was the author of Paul’s Epistles. Historians know for certain that Marcion and Simon Magus created a Gnostic version of Christianity that was the most popular version for quite some time; and many present day denominations continue to embrace that concept. Believers that favor salvation by faith thru grace not of works prefer Marcion’s theology. 

 

Since no writings prior to the second century have apparently survived that has opened the door to a lot of speculation. It also must be considered that there were other stories about  dying and rising God/men that came to save their people, long before the Jesus story appeared on the scene. The Jesus story wasn’t unique. 

 

From what I understand, Paul's Epistles appear into the historical record behind Marcion. And the gospels do not appear in the historical record until after that. It's still Paul and then the Gospels, but Paul appearing in the early 2nd century and the gospels appearing into the historical record into the mid 2nd century. Anything prior, the whole issue of the late 1st century is based on speculation and deduction. They figure that they must have began around the late 1st century and then possibly reworked until finally appearing into the historical record post Marcion's Gospel and the Pauline Epistles. 

 

The uncertainty levels go sky high the closer you zoom in on these issues from what I've gathered over years. 

 

( supposed time of jesus) -------- (Supposed oral traditions about a supposed jesus) ------- (Supposed time of paul's exploits) ------- (Supposed time of gospel writing periods) < 1st century CE / 2nd century CE > (Marcion introduces Pauline Epistles into the historical record for the first time, along with a Gospel) -------- (Gospels begin to appear into the historical record) --------- 3rd century CE (Church fathers make more and more mention of the gospels with time) 

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     Here's a bit of an example.  This is a part of a fragment from Papias (he supposedly wrote five books but only a few fragments remain):

 

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It may also be worth while to add to the statements of Papias already given, other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition. The residence of the Apostle Philip with his daughters in Hierapolis has been mentioned above. We must now point out how Papias, who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord. The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth. He moreover hands down, in his own writing, other narratives given by the previously mentioned Aristion of the Lord's sayings, and the traditions of the presbyter John.

 

     As this mentions this Papias supposedly got extra info via oral tradition.  And supposedly it was "strange" but we can no longer check the books for ourselves (unless someone uncovers a copy somewhere which would be great so we could see what these stories are for ourselves).  Anyhow, we already know that his version of Judas' story differs from the both gospel versions.  For those who don't know:

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Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out.

 

          mwc

 

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The question that begs an answer is what was the original source for these oral stories? Dr.Richard Carrier, IMO, makes the best case that I’ve heard for the Gospel being a mythical story. 

 

In other words somebody just make up the Jesus story and it caught on and then became an oral tradition. That isn’t so far fetched because there were already numerous dying/rising God/men stories already in circulation. The Jesus story could easily have been a modified version of anyone of these other existing stories.

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     I don't know if we're ever going to be able to find the original.  I don't know if there was ever one single original for that matter.  This stuff does all matter.

 

     I was pointing out that we have a supposedly early xian who dismisses the written stories as unreliable and only tries to use the oral tradition.  From the bits and pieces we have it is different from the written version we have.  How different?  Well, in the examples its pretty different but that might only be in those places.  He reports that Mark wrote down what Peter said as best he could but got things out of order but we have no idea if he's talking about the gospel as we now have it or something different entirely.

 

     Anyhow, later xians then look at what Papias writes, which was based on this oral tradition, and instead of preserving these amazing things.  These wonderful tales of their lord they dismiss them in the quoted bit I left.  They're the opposite of Papias.  They don't seem to find value in these oral traditions.  They're closer to these times than we are and they're not arguing how they must be so accurate because people somehow have the ability to have magical recall.  They do as we do.  They look at what he wrote, find they conflict with what they wish to believe, and toss them out of the official cannon.  Instead of being important history of their god on earth preserved by oral history they're just the ramblings of some dolt or dolts handed down by a flawed oral tradition.

 

          mwc

 

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No doubt there are people out there who can memorize large swaths of information and pass it on to others, but how frequently do we run across people like that? This particular argument is a favorite of JP Holding. He states that people in ancient times focused on memorizing information since most could not read or write. I have seen arguments from anthropologists stating that was not the case, and to say so is an oversimplification of what really happened. Let's be frank, every society is different. The way they think about things are different, the way they remember things are different, etc. I would also add, how many years of oral tradition are we working with here regarding the gospels? On top of that, is the argument advocating that everyone who heard the whole entire book of Matthew memorized it over night? It's easy to make a broad statement and throw in some really unusual circumstances that make it seem plausible, but I want to hear the details of how they think this process really worked. People in the first century thought a lot differently about the world than we do. These guys were not rationalist. Who knows how they would have viewed the stories in the gospels from a holistic perspective. Not only that, but most of the early Christians were uneducated peasants. Not masters of memorization. 

 

Consider this, are you telling me that the beatitudes was passed down word for word since it left the lips of Jesus and accurately recorded in the gopels 40 years after the fact? I have trouble choking that down. Why are there facts that conflict with each other in different gospels? So in reality, if the gospels are supposed to be oral tradition, do they not demonstrate that oral tradition did not work.

 

How many angels were in the empty tomb? Apparently too many for oral tradition to get systematically correct. 

 

What is Jesus' true genealogy? Oral tradition could not keep track of that one. 

 

Did Jesus clear the temple at the beginning of his ministry or the end? Oral tradition did not help us again.

 

Weird how oral tradition (Matthew) states a bunch of dead people nonchalantly got out of their grave and went to go see their friends in Jerusalem, but no historian took notice of that doozy.

 

So what are advocates of oral tradition reliability even trying to say? The gospels' disagreements tell us it plainly it did not work. Because if it did, then there would be one truth, one story, capturing what happened historically. 

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I've heard that contrary to popular belief people from israel could read and write in jesus day it just wasnt as common as modern day, is this true?

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3 hours ago, Rickswordfish said:

I've heard that contrary to popular belief people from israel could read and write in jesus day it just wasnt as common as modern day, is this true?

 

Human literacy was quite low worldwide until some time after the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century.

 

Concerning ancient Israel, scholarly papers estimate literacy between 3% and 20%, the difference largely attributable to how literacy is defined.

 

The current literacy rate (defined as reading and writing at 8th grade level or above) in the USA is 86%.  The USA ranks 125th among countries in literacy.

 

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html

 

Your stated "Interests" (to the left of each of your posts) include research, fact checking.

 

I suggest you practice your interests.

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2 hours ago, Rickswordfish said:

I've heard that contrary to popular belief

 

You apparently heard wrong as it were........

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8 hours ago, Rickswordfish said:

I've heard that contrary to popular belief people from israel could read and write in jesus day it just wasnt as common as modern day, is this true?

     The Talmud says that schools were setup in Jewish towns during the first century.  Now, the Talmud isn't always the most accurate of sources but if this were to have happened then we might imagine that they were more literate than we think.

 

     But what did that literacy really consist of?  What I mean is what language did they learn?  Was it Hebrew?  Aramaic?  Or even Greek?  I ask because because this is a very important question.  According to Josephus he, and other Jews, were not encouraged to learn Greek (or foreign languages) so I would think Greek (to read the LXX) would be out which leaves us with Hebrew and/or Aramaic.  However, the NT is all written in Greek.  So how did this literacy happen for a group that was not taught, and perhaps even discouraged from learning, Greek?

 

     People tend to go the other way by making multi-lingualism far more commonplace than it should have been just to make up for this.  If people were multi-lingual, even though, as I said we have people like Josephus saying they were not, it means we don't even need to care how things got done.

 

          mwc

 

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Im still struggling, can someone link me some scholary articles on how oral tradition isnt reliable?

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One argument i keep hearing is that jesus earliest followers were jewish so they would have used jewish techniques to meomorize what he said and did

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53 minutes ago, Rickswordfish said:

One argument i keep hearing is that jesus earliest followers were jewish so they would have used jewish techniques to meomorize what he said and did

     So did they?

 

     Putting the question of whether jesus actually existed aside, we'll just assume he did, did Jews have the special ability to memorize things like you're saying?  This strangely specific way.  And was it all Jews everywhere or just Jews in Israel?  Was it only Jews or did anyone else have this very useful ability?  Once memorized how long would than memory remain fresh and unaltered?  A lifetime?

 

     Everything we know about memory shows this is all impossible.  It takes time to move a something from short-term to long-term memory.  Once done the memory is altered over time unless the person works to keep it all correct.  So just like actors can memorize scripts extremely quickly, even word for word, they lose them fairly quickly unless they keep going over the material again and again.  They are unlikely to remember large parts of a script unless they perform it for years.  It's a similar sort of mental exercise.

 

     So, according to the stories and traditions the disciples would have heard these things once.  Remembered them for a lifetime and then wrote them down in another language.  All without repeated practice.  This is different from the Jews who would have essentially "rehearsed" their religious texts (and perhaps other things for their own needs).

 

     Which brings me back to my original question of: So did they?  What evidence is there that Jews did this?  That they could hear something once, in passing, not knowing its importance, and recite it perfectly decades later?  As opposed to the time tested method of simply placing words in the mouths of people after the fact as was done for many famous figures in history time and again?

 

          mwc

 

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1 hour ago, Rickswordfish said:

Im still struggling, can someone link me some scholary articles on how oral tradition isnt reliable?

     It both is and isn't.  Paul is likely talking about oral traditions but where they originate is anyone's guess.  The gospels would really be more oral histories than oral traditions. 

 

     Try reading this.

 

          mwc

 

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1 hour ago, MOHO said:

 

Yeah, and try it with a really long narrative.

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7 hours ago, Rickswordfish said:

Im still struggling, can someone link me some scholary articles on how oral tradition isnt reliable?

 

JESUS BEFORE THE GOSPELS: HOW THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS REMEMBERED, CHANGED, & INVENTED THEIR STORIES OF THE SAVIOR

BY BART D. EHRMAN

https://www.bartdehrman.com/jesus-before-the-gospels/

 

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DESCRIPTION

Many believe that the Gospel stories of Jesus are based on eyewitness testimony and are therefore historically reliable. Now, for the first time, a scholar of the New Testament, New York Times bestselling author Bart D. Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus; and Jesus, Interrupted), surveys research from the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology to explore how oral traditions and group memories really work and questions how reliable the Gospels can be.

Focusing on the decades-long gap between when Jesus lived and when these documents about him began to appear, Ehrman looks to these varied disciplines to see what they can tell us about how the New Testament developed. In the book, Ehrman examines:

  • How cultural anthropologists studied the oral traditions of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Ghana to reveal how stories always change as they are passed along.
  • How psychologists have discovered the routine phenomena of “false memories” and how strongly people contend that these false memories really happened.
  • How modern legal scholars and psychologists have shown how unreliable eyewitness testimonies really are, with people regularly distorting what they experienced.
  • How sociologists have shown that a group’s collective memory is strongly shaped by the issues and concerns of the remembering community just as much by the events themselves

Jesus Before the Gospels is a compelling narrative that not only demonstrates Ehrman’s deep knowledge and meticulous scholarship, but also challenges the historical accuracy of the Gospels and what they tell us about the historical Jesus, the way we read and think about these sacred texts, and how we view history.

 

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The Gospel of Mark doesn't read like oral history at all. He's just intertextually re-writing Greek Old Testament stories with some Homeric bits. And if the other gospels take Mark as their base text, that means they aren't oral history either. 

 

All religions consist of made-up stories intended to keep people in awe. Christianity's no different. 

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On 6/19/2019 at 5:34 PM, sdelsolray said:

 

JESUS BEFORE THE GOSPELS: HOW THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS REMEMBERED, CHANGED, & INVENTED THEIR STORIES OF THE SAVIOR

BY BART D. EHRMAN

https://www.bartdehrman.com/jesus-before-the-gospels/

 

 

Ive been reading reviews for that book there seem to be alot of problems with his theories

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3 hours ago, Rickswordfish said:

Ive been reading reviews for that book there seem to be alot of problems with his theories

 

Yes, there are some reviews of the book which are derogatory.  There are also many reviews which are quite complementary.

 

I can only suggest you read the book.  That way, you can decide for yourself.  I suggested the book to you in response to your question:

 

Quote

Im still struggling, can someone link me some scholary articles on how oral tradition isnt reliable?

 

Ehrman's book is scholarly and rather clearly demonstrates how oral traditions are simply not reliable.  Have you found other "scholary articles on how oral tradition isnt reliable"?

 

More to the point, why do you continue to look for ways to sabotage your search?

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37 minutes ago, Rickswordfish said:

Just trying to be unbiased

 

Try harder.

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