Dear Tony Prete,
Thanks for the message. Yes, I had in mind the parallel with
celebration of its sacred tradition and think it throws light on the
traditioning process in the Jesusbtradition.
Several of the contributers seem to think primarily in terms of the
evangelistic/church-founding part ofnthe process. That of course is
important. But for me the norm would be more the established community
celebrating in its regular gatherings the shared tradition. Perhaps we
distinguish three scenarios for analytic purposes.
1) The church-founding/community-constituting preaching and teaching.
envisage this as a substantial process. Not just an evangelistic hit
leaving the new group with a few slogans of faith. But
into the Jesus tradition as part of the founding process itself -
tradition-foundation of the new church. Alternatively expressed,
community sufficiently familiar, in some detail, with the identifying
that they could identify themselves to themselves and others.
2) The regular gatherings where those responsible within the community
(elders/teachers) would teach again, or together they would
parts of the tradition for theis edification and instruction.
3) Visits from other apostles/prophets;emissaries, where the means of
the prophecies and gospel preached would be the foundationg
first given. Paul seems to appeal to this test procedure on several
Thanks for the stimulus.
Tony Prete wrote:
> My interest is not primarily in the formation of the Synoptics, but in the
> extent to which the process of "oral performance" might be applicable to
> the narrative traditions in the Old Testament. Applying to these traditions
> the characteristics that Prof. Dunn ascribes to the development of the
> Jesus tradition seems to shed new light on them, especially in the thorny
> area of reactive interpretation (when presenting academic insights to a
> non-academic group in a Bible study setting).
> To think of the ancient biblical stories as based on communal celebratory
> performances takes away some of the burden of facticity that people want to
> read into them. The same is true of seeing them as sharing the impact
> of the events they describe, rather than the details. In short, Prof.
> Dunn's description of the oral performances as being "...in the nature of
> sacred repetition in celebration and affirmation of a community's
> identity-forming tradition" (just before 3.2) seems to reflect the process
> behind the development of Israel's traditions as well.
> Of course, there are differences. What the early church did in decades, the
> Israelites did over centuries. And whereas the early church had the direct
> and concrete experience of Jesus to work with, the ancient Israelites--in
> my opinion--didn't have anything so tangible. For them, I think, reflection
> on apparently ordinary events led to awareness of Yahweh's involvement in
> those events, and they told about this awareness in a way that emphasized
> the involvement over the specifics of the event. I also think that, over
> time, they came to distill out of these experiences a collection of core
> convictions (e.g., in Exod. 34:6-7), which then influenced how they
> reflected on subsequent events and narrated subsequent experiences.
> Finally, I understand Prof. Dunn to be saying (in part) that the early
> church communities needed first to trust in the witness of visiting
> storytellers and accept the validity of what they were saying; only then
> could those communities filter the message through their own experiences
> and retell it in their own words. (The Didache, in its suggestions about
> visiting prophets, indicates that this trust was not always forthcoming--or
> even warranted). And this, too, seems to apply to the Old Testament: first
> we seek to grasp and appreciate the core convictions that the written
> narratives communicate (in a communal and celebratory way); only then can
> we create our own stories that celebrate the communal impact of these core
> convictions on our own lives.
> A professor of mine once explained that "The Bible is not the words God
> spoke; it is the words through which God speaks." If my application of
> what Prof. Dunn presented (and further explored in his responses to
> questions) is valid, he has provided additional impetus to focus on
> listening carefully for what God is saying through the OT narratives,
> before we jump in with our own comments and reactions.
> Anthony Prete
> Haddonfield, NJ USA
> Masters Candidate
> La Salle University
> Philadelphia, Pa.
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