114Re: [J_D_G_DunnSeminar] Re: Luke/dates/codex
- May 6, 2001Dear Christine,
Apologies for the delay in replying - had to take a couple of days
off on family business (including seeing my daughter in a tremendous
performance of Sondheim's A Little Night Music in Leicester.
Thanks for the further data. I'll put it on file for the future.
> Dear Professor Dunn,
> Thank you for your interesting and helpful answer to my questions.
> I do look forward to your future work on the codex, a pet topic of mine.
> The Caesar quote is in Gallic Wars, book six. I haven't got this particular work in
> Latin, I have Rex Warner's translation. It's in the second section of book six where
> Caesar describes the customs of the Gauls. Describing the Druids, he says,
> "During their training, they are said to learn a great number of verses by heart--so
> many, in fact, that some people spend twenty years over their course of instruction.
> They do not think it right to commit these doctrines of theirs to writing, though for
> most other purposes (public and private accounts, for example) they use the Greek
> alphabet. I should imagine, however, that they had two other reasons for this
> practice: they did not want their teaching to become available to everyone, and they
> did not want those who learned their doctrine to rely on the written word and so fail
> to train their memories; for it is usually the case that when we have the help of
> books, we are not so keen on learning things by heart and allow our memories to
> become idle. "
> (Ain't that the truth!)
> Another interesting thing about Caesar, relevant to the codex topic, is that
> according to Suetonius he was "the first statesman who reduced [letters and
> dispatches to the Senate] to book form; previously, consuls and governor-generals had
> written right across the page, not in neat columns." This is Robert Graves's
> translation, I have the Latin somewhere. I don't think "book form" is thought to
> actually mean notebooks, but they lay-out--columns rather than "right across the
> page," as Suetonius said. No-one seems to know exactly what Suetonius meant, because
> we don't know what kind of material these war letters and dispatches were written on.
> Tantalizing, anyway, and again evidence of Caesar's interest in the written word.
> (And he apparently used a numerical code for confidential bits in his private
> In my memory Durham is lovely whatever the weather, and still was last September when
> I went while on a trip home to UK. Will be there again one day, DV.
> Meta Dunn wrote:
> > Dear Christine,
> > Thanks for the positive response to the paper and an interesting sequence of
> > questions.
> > I certainly agree that a developed oral tradition hypothesis shakes up the
> > Synoptic problem to an uncomfortable extent. But I remain convinced that there
> > is enough data in the Synoptics which is best explained by the 2 source/document
> > hypothesis. So my argument is for a more complex. rather than a different
> > traditioning process behind the Synoptics. Luke is certainly 'more literary'
> > than Mark in particular, and if we take his prologue seriously he made strenuous
> > efforts to check the continuity of the traditions he received with
> > 'eye-witnesses'. But if we can show that he has deliberately edited Mark, then
> > we are still caught with the dating sequence: Mark (c. 70); Luke later. And
> > on the possibility of the first followers of Jesus including some with notebooks,
> > see now Alan Millard's work referred to in the footnotes (and my crit!). I will
> > return to the codex question in a subsequent stage of my current research (DV).
> > If you can dig out the Caesar quotation I would appreciate it.
> > Greetings from Durham - dull and colder again after two glorious spring days.
> > Jimmy Dunn
> > christine wrote:
> > > Dear Professor Dunn:
> > >
> > > I want to thank you (especially as I'm a Durham alumna, 1975-78, English
> > > Lang and Medieval Lit) for giving the time to this interesting seminar.
> > > As an independent reader--not in academia--in the areas of first century
> > > Christianity, orality vs literacy, codex vs scroll, (and Celtic Iron Age,
> > > which has also been mentioned in the seminar) I very much admired the paper,
> > > and learned a great deal from it. I like the idea that we should stop
> > > thinking about "layers," and should try and shed "the curse of the literary
> > > paradigm."
> > > I especially liked 3:2 "...in addition..the fact that so many academic
> > > discussions on material like this take place in isolation from a living
> > > tradition of regular worship probably highlights another blind spot for many
> > > questers." I respect your common-sense emphasis (hardly "romantic") on how
> > > things might really happen among real people. And the paper's penultimate
> > > sentence, which I haven't yet seen referred to in the seminar, gives us, I
> > > think, something very significant: the idea that the Gospels aren't the top
> > > layer of many impenetrable layers, but "a living tradition of Christian
> > > celebration which takes us with surprising immediacy to the heart of the
> > > first memories of Jesus."
> > > Since I think study of the past is driven by a desire for "immediacy," for
> > > connection with long-dead people, the idea that the gospels are living
> > > tradition is an encouraging antidote to some recent scholarship that
> > > emphasizes their distance from the events they describe.
> > >
> > > My questions:
> > >
> > > 1) I'm especially interested in Luke, who in his introduction speaks of
> > > making a "diagesis," of compiling information in a way that seems to me (via
> > > Fitzmeyer's commentary and others) consciously literary: as if he's giving
> > > the background to the basic information about Christianity that Theophilus
> > > has already been told, perhaps orally. I agree that Luke must surely have
> > > incorporated oral traditions into his two books; woven written and oral
> > > material together. And even deployed the traditions in an oral way, as you
> > > illustrate.
> > > But doesn't he represent a more consciously literary type of communication
> > > than Mark and Matt? (I'm not a Greek scholar--but I gather his style is more
> > > literary too.)
> > > Larry Swain has said he is not certain that "they saw a difference" in the
> > > ancient world betwen oral and written, but Luke in his intro seems to me to
> > > see a difference.
> > > (Plus, doesn't Julius Caesar say somewhere that the Gallic Druids were wise
> > > to require oral transmission of the lore, so strengthening their memories,
> > > whereas people in literate cultures, like his own elite Roman one, had weaker
> > > memories because of being used to writing everything down?)
> > >
> > > 2)You make the point that we should not see Jesus tradition as being oral
> > > first, written second, but both existing side-by-side.
> > > Does this re-open the argument about dating of the synoptic Gospels? Luke
> > > may appear more consciously literary than Mark and Matt, but you have made it
> > > clear this does not therefore mean he has to have been writing a lot later:
> > > oral and literary traditions of varying sophistication flourished
> > > simultaneously.
> > > Not to deny literary dependence: but could he have been writing very shortly
> > > after them? Can we revisit J.A.T. Robinson? (I know the arguments pro and
> > > con, reference to destruction of the temple in 70, etc, but have never been
> > > entirely convinced that Luke has to be as late as 80-85, and I still don't
> > > understand why Acts never refers to or foreshadow's Paul's fate.)
> > >
> > > 3)The codex. All I've read about this (Skeat, Robins, Turner, Gamble,
> > > McCormick, etc etc) agree, as is well-known, that the Christians adopted the
> > > codex with startling alacrity. There's less agreement about why--I believe
> > > it must have been a combination of factors--ease of transport, ease of
> > > reference, new book technology in Rome (Martial), perhaps a Pauline tradition
> > > ("membranae" in 2Tim)--all of the above. It's thought by some that the codex
> > > evolved, not so much from wax tablets bound together as from codex notebooks
> > > used by artisans and doctors for notes, reminders, accounts, recipes, etc.
> > > Such notebooks would never have been considered appropriate for
> > > "literature." Yet Christians were soon using similar handbooks for their
> > > writings.
> > > So: Is there a parallel?
> > > *the codex*, a bridge between the humble ephemeral wax tablet (or
> > > Vindolanda-style wood sheet) and the literary scroll, by way of the artisan's
> > > notebook;
> > > *the gospels*, a bridge between oral storytelling/performance and high
> > > literature, by way of the Christian communities?
> > >
> > > And did the Christians also take to the codex because it was a less formal
> > > vehicle? Closer to the world of orality--builders, businessmen, doctors, and
> > > their assistants giving each other notes, instructions, information, to be
> > > jotted down in a notebook? A more natural place to record the living oral
> > > traditions about Jesus?
> > >
> > > Thanks again,
> > >
> > > Christine Whittemore,
> > > Stroudsburg PA.
> > >
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