97Re: [J_D_G_DunnSeminar] Re: Luke/dates/codex
- May 3, 2001Dear Christine,
Thanks for the positive response to the paper and an interesting sequence of
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.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> *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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