Oral Tradition vs Oral Performance
- Professor Dunn,
Back on the 27th I posted a question asking about the philosophical
implications of the article under discussion, that to date has been
missed (or skipped?).
The paper contains a fair amount of rhetorical language, such
as "Unfortunately ..." (numerous), "... obvious ...," "ignored the
most obvious," "once again eluded scholarship," "Regrettably then,
once again, the potential significance of ... has been subverted by
another agenda and lost to sight," etc. (and these are just those in
the first 8 pages!)
There is also a striking similarity between your suggestions and
Papias' statement, himself quoting the verbal account of "the
presbyter," that "Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote
down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in
exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he
neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I
said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the
necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a
regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no
mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one
thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and
not to put anything fictitious into the statements." [Eusebius,
You may not be claiming that the author of the second gospel was
actually Mark, Peter's assistant, but you do seem to be asserting a
very similar transmission process as described above. Is this
coincidence, fortuitous, a vindication of tradition, or an
explanation intended to set the minds of reasonable people at ease?
To some of us who have a great deal of psychological resources
invested in the historical method, this is a very important question.
I thought the mention of Herder's almost offhand comment about oral
saga explaining variations in the gospel accounts was more than
coincidental. J. G. Herder had offered a solution to the conflict
between scientific method and a metaphysical comprehansion of the
world that permitted empirical investigation to live in harmony with
a theological world view. However it is no accident, I think, that he
is also considered the father of the Romanticist schools of history.
Does oral traditioning (with regard to the gospels, at least) boil
down to a desire to romantically emplot the historical record?
Cleveland, Ohio, USA