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104sacred words in oral traditioning

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  • Wali van Lohuizen
    May 3, 2001
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      Dear Prof. Dunn,

      As a relative outsider and as a non-English speaker I had long hesitations
      to participate. But the discussion is so challenging that I have decided to
      propose a posting. I have not been educated as an NT scholar (I have been
      doing research and teaching on urban planning and on the methodology of
      applied research in general). But on the basis of my high-school Greek,
      additional courses on the NT, inquiries in this field, seminars, and some
      extra general knowledge in the field of the NT, religion and spirituality I
      am venturing to get a deeper understanding of the NT, especially of the
      Gospels. Allow me to reflect a little on your paper before coming to my

      When you gave your paper on the same subject at SBL, Nashville, TN I was
      greatly interested. I am very grateful that by this seminar you are giving
      the opportunity to get deeper into the matter. What I appreciate especially
      is that your paper addresses the essentials and the importance of the oral
      traditioning for the formation of the message (euanggelion) of Jesus. I
      think this is very important. And I am impressed by the variety in the
      discussion although I do miss the voices of let me call it the 'wing of Q
      and Thomas scholars'. I am also appreciative of the use of the term
      'teachings of Jesus' rather than 'words of Jesus' for the very reasons you
      are indicating. Yes, I do think that Jesus was teaching - but in a special
      sense of the concept -, both in public (to his disciples and others), and to
      his disciples according to the general tradition in spirituality that some
      teachings are public and others are for the inner circle. The latter ones
      are oral per se.

      I am happy to see Bailey's article in a central role. Already for some years
      I have been wondering what NT scholarship did do with his findings that are
      so pertinent to the formation of the message. What strikes me most in
      discussions on the teachings of Jesus is the lack of understanding of the
      impact of the teachings in both words and acts by Jesus. What I have come to
      understand of what a spiritual teacher really is, is his impact on his
      environment, and especially on his disciples. This, I think, is one of the
      main contributions of your paper: (re-)establishing the significance of the
      words and acts of the living Jesus. We had gone to believe that his words
      were not his because we as belonging to Western culture cannot believe in
      the impact and durability of a 'presence' and its manifestations in words
      and deeds. But this is the very thing we learn from the history of religion
      and from some scarce figures in present times. What Jesus said must have had
      a radiance, the power of a an arrow penetrating through minds and hearts,
      awakening a consciousness of the Spirit. They had a sacredness in them, and
      thus were a power per se. Such an impact remains, very often even verbally
      or approximately so, and will be transmitted in that same spirit.This
      recognition need not come through words but rather resides in the
      personality and atmosphere of the teacher or prophet. E.g. Moses coming down
      from Sinai. Cf some Buddha traditions. Or the scene on Mt Tabor. Or the
      description in all four gospels of the baptism scene, though Jesus does not
      say a word.

      I wonder whether you agree with this extension of your argument. Personnally
      I am interested if you would have further evidence for the special place of
      'sacred words' by, or even the 'presence' of, a great teacher in the sense
      you are proposing. My request, prof. Dunn, is whether you could comment on
      this and possibly elaborate the idea.
      Moreover, if prof. Dunn or anybody else could provide me of further
      suggestions on this line of thought - positive or negative - I would be
      most interested. Off-line postings are welcomed.

      Thank you, prof. Dunn, for giving so much attention to all questions raised.

      Wali van Lohuizen
      Singel 170-172
      NL 1015 AH Amsterdam

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