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Re: Kilmon Re: [Synoptic-L] Oral Tradition

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Oral Tradition Discussion From: Bruce This discussion may have reached a point of useful equilibrium. I here try to identify it,
    Message 1 of 29 , May 31 7:46 PM
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      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Oral Tradition Discussion
      From: Bruce

      This discussion may have reached a point of useful equilibrium. I here try
      to identify it, quoting from Jack Kilmon's latest posting and adding a few
      commentarial notes of my own:

      JACK: common sense tells me new elements are incorporated every generation
      from both internal and
      external events. In some tribes ancestral chants remove the earliest
      ancestor on the addition of a new generation.

      BRUCE: And also in some higher civilizations, such as the Han Empire of
      China, where we have exactly that sort of substitution in the last of
      previous emperors to whom state sacrifices were maintained. More generally,
      what we have here is a statement about the fluidity and openness of "oral
      texts," such as fixed ancestor chants. A fortiori, the same fluidity will
      still more obtain in tales or wisdom sayings or other material which may
      have had less culture-internal push for exactness.

      JACK: Common sense also tells me that modern literates have no way of
      assessing the transmission accuracy of ancient carriers.

      BRUCE: It has already been conceded, in a conversation among "modern
      literates," that the "transmission accuracy" of oral material is variable.
      And that we have no way, merely by listening to, say, an ancestral chant, to
      tell which figures on it are fictive, or to tell how many figures may have
      been eliminated from it. I would then rephrase this last sentence this way:
      Nobody, whether literate or not, can tell merely from inspecting an oral
      text, or a text transcribed from oral praxis, which elements in it are older
      and which are newer. It has no way, internal to the text and not relying on
      information outside the text, to tell whether a given Chippewa song was
      handed down from 1892, or composed last week.

      JACK: . . . we can see all manner of interpolation, text corruption and
      mistakes in written manuscript transmission.

      BRUCE: Granted. But I think it now stands as equally granted that exactly
      the same vicissitudes in principle apply to so-called "oral transmission."
      The "oral" channel, then, is not privileged above the written channel for
      freedom from these vicissitudes.

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Jack Kilmon
      But don t you see, Dave? You have just described the difference between an orator in an oral society versus a literate society. A good speaker/teacher
      Message 2 of 29 , Jun 1, 2009
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        But don't you see, Dave? You have just described the difference between an
        orator in an oral society versus a literate society. A good speaker/teacher
        incorporated mnemonic meter, tone, assonance, alliteration and paronomasia
        for his audience to remember parables and short aphorisms. If the 30-odd
        people listening to Jesus' parables did not remember them to pass them on,
        they would soon forget and Jesus may just as well have spent his day playing
        Galilean stickball. I don't think the carrier had to remember it word for
        word but certainly the sense and meaning. There is a parable that just came
        to my mind in Aramaic where the KEY words were in paronomasia. I hope you
        don't mind. I have to do this in Aramaic to make my point:

        So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

        haKANna-y MALkutha d'aLAha ak nash d'yarMA zar'A bar'A

        Now I am a tad literate in Aramaic and if I wanted to study this and
        remember it by rote, I could but what I actually remember (as I believe
        people in that small audience did) is:

        ZAR'A (seed) and `AR'A (ground)

        And should sleep, and rise night and day,

        w'YIDmak w'yiQUM b'LILya w'b'YOMama

        LILya (night) YOma (day)

        and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

        w'zar'A (seed) yirBA (grow)

        For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself, first the stalk,

        ar'a ger MAYtya leh l'PER'a w'LUQdam HAwe 'ESba

        AR'a (earth) PER'a (fruit)

        then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

        w'BAtreh SHYbla chaRAYat den CHIT-ta m'shamLAYta b'SHYbla

        SHYbla (ear) CHITta (grain) b'SHYbla (in the ear)

        But when the fruit is brought forth,

        Kadh yehibha 'ibbah

        immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

        Shallah magla dah'sadha 'abbibh


        So I can remember zar'a...a'ra (seed-earth); lilya...yoma (night-day);
        zar'a..yirBA (seed-grow); ar'a...per'a (earth to fruit);
        shybla...chitta...b'shybla (ear-grain-in the ear)

        From the mnemonic puns even a dummy like me can remember the Aramaicsense of
        the parable but having gone through this exercise with you explaining how I
        remember this parable (and how the first audience remembered it) I can see
        how the wording connecting the puns can change from individual to
        individual, preserving the main sense and meaning but probably not the
        precise wording. The "Jesus stuff" then becomes "close to Jesus stuff." So
        oral transmission was probably not verbatim. Don't tell Bruce and Bob I had
        this epiphany.

        Regards,

        Jack


        Jack Kilmon
        San Antonio, TX


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Dave Gentile" <gentile_dave@...>
        To: <Synoptic@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 7:21 PM
        Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke would never have done THAT to Matthew.


        > Jack,
        >
        > A song-like list of sayings to me, tells of a person who sat down and took
        > considerable time to put them in that form. I would not tend to see these
        > as the words of a speaker in real-time. So, a song like list is not the
        > historical Jesus, in my view. An early author? Perhaps. But then again,
        > there is also the possibility of a later author, competent in Aramaic.
        >
        > Dave Gentile
        > Riverside, IL
        >
        >
        >
        > --- In Synoptic@yahoogroups.com, "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon@...> wrote:
        >>
        >>
        >> ----- Original Message -----
        >> From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...>
        >> To: <Synoptic@yahoogroups.com>
        >> Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2009 3:52 AM
        >> Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke would never have done THAT to Matthew.
        >>
        >>
        >> > To: Synoptic
        >> > In Agreement With: Jeffery Hodges
        >> > On: Rhyme as Mnemonic
        >> > From: Bruce
        >> >
        >> > I think Jeffery's point is very well taken. Rhyme may be a mnemonic
        >> > aid,
        >> > though whole traditions including the Homeric seem to have gotten along
        >> > nicely without it, but when present, it does not protect the maxim in
        >> > question from literary abrasion and change. The most famous poem of the
        >> > Chinese poet Li Bwo, a little thing of four short lines, can be shown
        >> > by
        >> > early copies to have been worn down and trivialized from what is more
        >> > likely
        >> > to have been its original form to the form in which millions can recite
        >> > it
        >> > at the present moment. In much the way that Jeffery's improvisation
        >> > suggests. Quotations, rhymed as well as unrhymed, from the early
        >> > Chinese
        >> > classics in the later Chinese classics, are sometimes inexact, not to
        >> > mention quotations in less exalted contexts. Mediterranean examples
        >> > might
        >> > be
        >> > multiplied as well.
        >> >
        >> > For one reason and another, some types of material may survive
        >> > repetition
        >> > and transmission better than others, but there can be no guarantee,
        >> > whether
        >> > by genre or by form, of invariance under repetition and transmission.
        >> > Life
        >> > is simple, but not *that* simple.
        >> >
        >> > Bruce
        >> >
        >> > E Bruce Brooks
        >> > Warring States Project
        >> > University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        >>
        >> Bruce:
        >>
        >> Homeric Greek may have gotten along without rhyme as a mnemonic device
        >> but
        >> it used another device....song. Homeric Greek was sung. I remember a
        >> time
        >> from my youth when my professorial uncle was teaching me from a
        >> boustrephedon of the Iliad and as I look/hear back, it sounded an awful
        >> lot
        >> like Chinese...hence to your point. Aramaic gives indications, as well,
        >> of
        >> a tonal quality that may have been inherited. The rhyme and meter of
        >> Jesus'
        >> sayings in Aramaic are very "song-like." We of the literary age know
        >> very
        >> little, it seems, of the oral period that goes back into the dark mists
        >> of
        >> pre-history for hundreds of thousands of years versus our literary
        >> millennium, an infancy compared to orality. There is a possibility that
        >> Neandertal may have sung his language. Literists believe that orality
        >> was
        >> very inaccurate but how do they know? They have never experienced it.
        >>
        >> I once sat with a shaman of a tribe I stayed with for a while in the
        >> central
        >> Highlands of New Guinea. These are people whose language goes back
        >> 50,000
        >> years, unmolested by the west. The story he was telling of the history
        >> of
        >> this tribe was sung to me as a friend interpreted into Pidgin. It
        >> preserved
        >> names and events that I have no doubt have been similarly sung since the
        >> upper paleolithic. Oral cultures still exist in places not yet invaded
        >> by
        >> murderous modern literates.
        >>
        >> Jack
        >>
        >>
        >> Jack Kilmon
        >> San Antonio, TX
        >>
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > Synoptic-L homepage: http://NTGateway.com/synoptic-lYahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >


        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



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      • Dave Gentile
        Jack, One problem with all of this might come down to fist principles and how we are approaching these questions in the first place. But without having that
        Message 3 of 29 , Jun 1, 2009
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          Jack,

          One problem with all of this might come down to fist principles and how we are approaching these questions in the first place.
          But without having that discussion, I'd note that I'm not convinced that Jesus was this sort of teacher at all, i.e. someone who tried to put together material for others to remember, that is - a dispenser of sagely wisdom. And unless we already know that Jesus was this sort of person, then discovering something which someone who rehearsed oral material would use, only gets us closer to the conclusion that some material was once passed orally, it does not get us closer to the historical Jesus.

          In short form:

          The idea that "memorable sayings" moves us closer to the historical Jesus, only works if we already think the historical Jesus was a crafter of memorable sayings.

          Dave Gentile
          Riverside, IL

          --- In Synoptic@yahoogroups.com, "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon@...> wrote:
          >
          > But don't you see, Dave? You have just described the difference between an
          > orator in an oral society versus a literate society. A good speaker/teacher
          > incorporated mnemonic meter, tone, assonance, alliteration and paronomasia
          > for his audience to remember parables and short aphorisms. If the 30-odd
          > people listening to Jesus' parables did not remember them to pass them on,
          > they would soon forget and Jesus may just as well have spent his day playing
          > Galilean stickball. I don't think the carrier had to remember it word for
          > word but certainly the sense and meaning. There is a parable that just came
          > to my mind in Aramaic where the KEY words were in paronomasia. I hope you
          > don't mind. I have to do this in Aramaic to make my point:
          >
          > So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
          >
          > haKANna-y MALkutha d'aLAha ak nash d'yarMA zar'A bar'A
          >
          > Now I am a tad literate in Aramaic and if I wanted to study this and
          > remember it by rote, I could but what I actually remember (as I believe
          > people in that small audience did) is:
          >
          > ZAR'A (seed) and `AR'A (ground)
          >
          > And should sleep, and rise night and day,
          >
          > w'YIDmak w'yiQUM b'LILya w'b'YOMama
          >
          > LILya (night) YOma (day)
          >
          > and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
          >
          > w'zar'A (seed) yirBA (grow)
          >
          > For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself, first the stalk,
          >
          > ar'a ger MAYtya leh l'PER'a w'LUQdam HAwe 'ESba
          >
          > AR'a (earth) PER'a (fruit)
          >
          > then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
          >
          > w'BAtreh SHYbla chaRAYat den CHIT-ta m'shamLAYta b'SHYbla
          >
          > SHYbla (ear) CHITta (grain) b'SHYbla (in the ear)
          >
          > But when the fruit is brought forth,
          >
          > Kadh yehibha 'ibbah
          >
          > immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
          >
          > Shallah magla dah'sadha 'abbibh
          >
          >
          > So I can remember zar'a...a'ra (seed-earth); lilya...yoma (night-day);
          > zar'a..yirBA (seed-grow); ar'a...per'a (earth to fruit);
          > shybla...chitta...b'shybla (ear-grain-in the ear)
          >
          > From the mnemonic puns even a dummy like me can remember the Aramaicsense of
          > the parable but having gone through this exercise with you explaining how I
          > remember this parable (and how the first audience remembered it) I can see
          > how the wording connecting the puns can change from individual to
          > individual, preserving the main sense and meaning but probably not the
          > precise wording. The "Jesus stuff" then becomes "close to Jesus stuff." So
          > oral transmission was probably not verbatim. Don't tell Bruce and Bob I had
          > this epiphany.
          >
          > Regards,
          >
          > Jack
          >
          >
          > Jack Kilmon
          > San Antonio, TX
          >
          >
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: "Dave Gentile" <gentile_dave@...>
          > To: <Synoptic@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 7:21 PM
          > Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke would never have done THAT to Matthew.
          >
          >
          > > Jack,
          > >
          > > A song-like list of sayings to me, tells of a person who sat down and took
          > > considerable time to put them in that form. I would not tend to see these
          > > as the words of a speaker in real-time. So, a song like list is not the
          > > historical Jesus, in my view. An early author? Perhaps. But then again,
          > > there is also the possibility of a later author, competent in Aramaic.
          > >
          > > Dave Gentile
          > > Riverside, IL
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > --- In Synoptic@yahoogroups.com, "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon@> wrote:
          > >>
          > >>
          > >> ----- Original Message -----
          > >> From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@>
          > >> To: <Synoptic@yahoogroups.com>
          > >> Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2009 3:52 AM
          > >> Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke would never have done THAT to Matthew.
          > >>
          > >>
          > >> > To: Synoptic
          > >> > In Agreement With: Jeffery Hodges
          > >> > On: Rhyme as Mnemonic
          > >> > From: Bruce
          > >> >
          > >> > I think Jeffery's point is very well taken. Rhyme may be a mnemonic
          > >> > aid,
          > >> > though whole traditions including the Homeric seem to have gotten along
          > >> > nicely without it, but when present, it does not protect the maxim in
          > >> > question from literary abrasion and change. The most famous poem of the
          > >> > Chinese poet Li Bwo, a little thing of four short lines, can be shown
          > >> > by
          > >> > early copies to have been worn down and trivialized from what is more
          > >> > likely
          > >> > to have been its original form to the form in which millions can recite
          > >> > it
          > >> > at the present moment. In much the way that Jeffery's improvisation
          > >> > suggests. Quotations, rhymed as well as unrhymed, from the early
          > >> > Chinese
          > >> > classics in the later Chinese classics, are sometimes inexact, not to
          > >> > mention quotations in less exalted contexts. Mediterranean examples
          > >> > might
          > >> > be
          > >> > multiplied as well.
          > >> >
          > >> > For one reason and another, some types of material may survive
          > >> > repetition
          > >> > and transmission better than others, but there can be no guarantee,
          > >> > whether
          > >> > by genre or by form, of invariance under repetition and transmission.
          > >> > Life
          > >> > is simple, but not *that* simple.
          > >> >
          > >> > Bruce
          > >> >
          > >> > E Bruce Brooks
          > >> > Warring States Project
          > >> > University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          > >>
          > >> Bruce:
          > >>
          > >> Homeric Greek may have gotten along without rhyme as a mnemonic device
          > >> but
          > >> it used another device....song. Homeric Greek was sung. I remember a
          > >> time
          > >> from my youth when my professorial uncle was teaching me from a
          > >> boustrephedon of the Iliad and as I look/hear back, it sounded an awful
          > >> lot
          > >> like Chinese...hence to your point. Aramaic gives indications, as well,
          > >> of
          > >> a tonal quality that may have been inherited. The rhyme and meter of
          > >> Jesus'
          > >> sayings in Aramaic are very "song-like." We of the literary age know
          > >> very
          > >> little, it seems, of the oral period that goes back into the dark mists
          > >> of
          > >> pre-history for hundreds of thousands of years versus our literary
          > >> millennium, an infancy compared to orality. There is a possibility that
          > >> Neandertal may have sung his language. Literists believe that orality
          > >> was
          > >> very inaccurate but how do they know? They have never experienced it.
          > >>
          > >> I once sat with a shaman of a tribe I stayed with for a while in the
          > >> central
          > >> Highlands of New Guinea. These are people whose language goes back
          > >> 50,000
          > >> years, unmolested by the west. The story he was telling of the history
          > >> of
          > >> this tribe was sung to me as a friend interpreted into Pidgin. It
          > >> preserved
          > >> names and events that I have no doubt have been similarly sung since the
          > >> upper paleolithic. Oral cultures still exist in places not yet invaded
          > >> by
          > >> murderous modern literates.
          > >>
          > >> Jack
          > >>
          > >>
          > >> Jack Kilmon
          > >> San Antonio, TX
          > >>
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > ------------------------------------
          > >
          > > Synoptic-L homepage: http://NTGateway.com/synoptic-lYahoo! Groups Links
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          >
          >
          > --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          >
          >
          >
          > No virus found in this incoming message.
          > Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
          > Version: 8.5.339 / Virus Database: 270.12.46/2145 - Release Date: 05/31/09
          > 05:53:00
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