Oral Continuation Of The Gospel

Is this proof of the bibles message that hasnt been changed over the centuries? Is the bible preserved that way? Did the first Christians wrote some earlier accounts abiut Christ or they spread the message mouth by mouth?

Nearly all religions have a practice of passing the message accurately
from the founder, through the founder’s followers, their followers, and so on. Scriptural documents would be written at an early stage, within the first generation if possible to guarantee authenticity. Christianity seems to be no exception to this. After all, the members of the faith community would certainly want to get it right! Apart from minor issues, scholars are confident that the New Testament has been pretty well preserved from its first versions - your bible will indicate in footnotes where there are a few minor discrepances and uncertainties. The Jews in turn have had meticulous procedures for accurately copying their scriptures, our Old Testament. In later centuries, the Church certainly did need to battle against heretical movements but the authority of the apostolic succession gives us confidence that the mainstream message was maintained in the official Bible.

There’s nothing missing in the gospel. It’s all there. Everything everyone needs.

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Lets play the devils advocate shal i?. How do you know ? Is the oral tradition enough for you to be assured they didnt changed anything?

What could be missing? It’s perfect, it couldn’t get any better.

The word i used was changed though klax. Not missing

Hello NickolaosPappas…Is your question concerned with “proof that the Bible has not been changed over the centuries”? I think the word “this” being placed second in the first sentence is throwing me off a bit…

I wondered a lot about this when I was still pondering returning to religion in general, the value of the biblical text in particular and so forth. Oral transmission of information was essentially “how it was done” in the many millennia before we know anything about written materials (of any sort). And memory aids — called mnemonics — were used in the maintaining of some data. For example, the Ten Commandments were an example of the use of mnemonics — that is, a Commandment for each finger. That was a memory aide.

The Great Isaiah Scroll became a source for comparing the transmission of the bilbical text from one century to one copyist to one century after another…and is said, by those who have studied it, to be an example of how text can be preserved by copyists over the centuries…so that scholars now are confident that the modern Book of Isaiah is the same text that the ancients read.,

As for accounts about Christ — I know that levels of literacy were very low in Jesus’ era. But I have read two seemingly diverse things: one is that rabbis of Jesus’ era expected their disciples to memorize their teacher’s words. And another thing is that followers of rabbis of that era took notes…So what does this mean? Many followers may have had low to zero literacy skills, but others did. Jesus had an accountant, a couple business owners, a disciple of possibly affluent background – any and all of whom had the ability to take notes.

Whether these notes are the mysterious Q, L, M documents that preceded compilation of the four gospels – I don’t know. Maybe these notes preceded Q, L, and M etc. But at any rate, they would mean some aspects of the gospel stories were possibly in notes and/ or memorized and being recounted to others — very early on.

And when a gospel WAS written, it is likely that more than one “original” was done at the same time – i.e., Matthew (for example) wrote his gospel and then immediately copied it (himself) and sent one “original” one direction in the community of Jesus followers, and the second “original” in another direction…

Thus there was more than one original (potentially) by which early accounts were dispersed.

It’s a complex subject but a good one…and the text of the New Testament is repeated or quoted in sermons, commentaries, speeches, other literary sources within a century or two of the time of Christ so that, in theory at least, the text of the New Testament can be checked against these other sources…

Hope this helps!!

? What could be missing from the gospel of universal salvation in life ?

Nick, A book I found helpful was Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture. It goes into how ancient cultures valued the oral word and traditions, and they were just as authoritative as the written. In fact, we have a very recent history of printing, reading and literacy, and the common perception of something in print having more authority is relatively new. You can see this even in the New Testament where Jesus says, “You have heard…” on multiple occasions.
One might even say the tendency towards Bibleism in some fundamentalist circles is a form of idolatry of the written word rather than the rightful following of the Living Word.


What is missing is understanding of the two thousand years of post-Biblical culture - theology, translation - we bring to the Bible filling the vacuum of two thousand years of Biblical culture - languages, meaning - that Gentiles know nothing about.

I understand that but i would make the argument that we have a lot of ancient manuscripts generally. So writing down things was not uncommon even at that chronology.

True, but only for the elite , in general. Even in Paul’s time, his letters were read aloud to the churches as most of the people had limited literacy. Many could write their name, maybe make a grocery list or a bill of sale, but most were unable to read a letter easily. In Old Testament times, even fewer could read and there really was nothing to read by the masses.

Didnt you say that nothing is missing? Thats a contradiction to your part considering you dont actually want to answer to my question if oral tradition is as authorotative as documents and if it has even changed

There is no question.

Yeah aint gonna put up with this again. Have a good night Klax . Happy thanksgiving as well. Take care mate!

Good for you mate. Thanks. And yourself. Er, what could be missing?

Writing was a great privilege. The masses could not possibly afford the materials, and no, they wouldn’t have needed shopping lists either. Christianity wasn’t spread by writing, but by preaching - so yes orally - and by example. Of ‘the way’. It spread from hundreds to thousands on the morning of Pentecost 31 AD by a miracle of hearing. It then spread by inspired communalism; socially organized love beyond anything seen before or since, among radicalized Second Temple Jews whose realisation of the Messiah’s coming among them had dawned. Not enough to save the Jews as a whole from themselves. Nothing was written for nearly two decades. It was lived. It conquered the Roman Empire in three hundred slow, subversive years, inevitably losing as it gained in non-Jewish cultures.

And here we are.

The Gospel never changes. It is as authoritative as the day God spoke it in Christ at Nazareth from the book of the school of Isaiah.

Nothing is missing but our understanding.

In terms of some changes in terms of grammar and such no not really. I understand a mix of various oral Jesus traditions that would become the four canonical gospels we have in out NT were passed down orally for a long time until they were written down by scribes by the mid-to-late 1st century.

Hi Nick,

I have a feeling this starter topic derives from another one about the role of oral transmission which I have not been party to. The problem with drawing conclusions about oral transmission is that of finding any evidence, simply because it was oral. However, I’d like to respond to your question by focusing on written tradition in a way that reduces the space occupied by oral tradition.

Biblical scholars often proffer dates for the publication of the four canonical Gospels. In these dates there is usually a relative timing with Mark as the earliest Gospel, followed by Matthew and Luke, and finally John towards the end of the first century. Those who argue for a Gnosticised version of the gospel tortuously argue for a date for John’s Gospel in the early second century A.D., placing it later into the second century along with its literary Gnostic competitors. However, such a “binary” approach to dating of the Gospels fails to understand a progression in the written tradition.

Let’s use the Gospel of John (hereafter referred to as “John”) as an example. As one flips through the pages of his Gospel, John tells many stories about Jesus. He gets to the end, and after telling us about the resurrection appearances, begins to “wrap up”, writing at the end of chapter 20: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31 NIV) If this Gospel was a movie, you would expect to see the credits begin to roll up the screen with the theme music playing in the background. Then when you turn the page, expecting to see the first chapter of Acts, you instead get chapter 21 of John. What follows is a resurrection appearance of Jesus in Galilee. Then after that, John starts the wrap up talk again: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NIV) Some might argue that the words at the end of chapter 20 are not “wrap up” words. If not, why would the same style of ending be there at the end of chapter 21?

So what? Well, the endings at the end of chapter 20 and chapter 21 give clear signs that the Gospel of John has undergone at least two editions. The dating of the writing of John’s Gospel belongs to the publication of the last edition. But what about the dating of the first edition? In his three-volume commentary on the Gospel of John and the letters of John, specialist Urban C. von Wahlde identifies three editions of John’s Gospel, the earliest of which predates the Gospel of Mark. If this is correct, then the timespan for oral tradition to play a role is reduced.

I’ve got more to say on this question, but we all need to cut up our food and eat it one bite at a time.

Soo oral tradidition didnt play a role if this chronologys true?

No, that conclusion doesn’t follow. The problem is the lack of evidence for oral transmission. How can one make any assertions about the role of oral transmission in the absence of evidence of oral tradition? Presumably there was some oral quoting of Jesus in the life of the early church just as there is in the church today.

Talking about the church today, imagine a meeting of a parish council. A minute secretary is ably recording the minutes, but some stickler for procedure has convinced the meeting that the minutes should only be a record of the motions passed. There is plenty of oral discussion and debate which determines the passing or otherwise of any particular motion, but the archives for posterity will not include that discussion.

Let’s broaden the discussion to discuss what Jesus might have said. The people of the Bible originated from Mesopotamia - the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - which included the city of Ur. The people of this area spoke Semitic languages, but the distinction between languages and dialects is very complex and too detailed to be discussed here. One of these languages was Hebrew and another Aramaic, which was closely related. In the 6th century B.C., many Jews were taken into exile in the Mesopotamian city of Babylon. When they returned from the Exile, they came back speaking Aramaic. They also continued with Hebrew, but they wrote it in Aramaic script. So the square script in which we see Hebrew written today is actually Aramaic script of the past. Languages develop and change over time, but even today Aramaic speakers and Hebrew speakers can often understand each other. Check out this YouTube video of two young ladies speaking Assyrian Aramaic and two young ladies speaking modern Hebrew. Be sure to skip the ad which comes on at the beginning and has nothing to do with the video.
Similarities Between Assyrian Aramaic and Hebrew - YouTube

The point of this exercise is that Jesus could probably speak both Aramaic and Hebrew, but Aramaic would have been his language at home and among fellow Jews. Hebrew would have been used in the synagogue. Aramaic would have been one of two common languages of the ancient Near and Middle East. The other language would have been Greek. Thanks to Alexander the Great and his generals, Greek language and culture was forced upon conquered nations, so Greek became a common language as well. I suspect that Jesus could converse easily in any of these languages. I don’t think Jesus would have had any difficulty speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman or the Samaritan woman at the well.

The second factor is that Jesus probably uttered any particular teaching on numerous occasions as he moved from town to town. I would imagine he told his stories slightly differently on each occasion and tailored his message to meet the spiritual needs of his audience, as any modern preacher would do.

So, in the process of putting Jesus’ teachings into the Greek of the New Testament there would be variations in translation from Aramaic and variations dependent on which particular occasion Jesus uttered the same teaching. Such variations need not be evidence of oral transmission. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t oral tradition in play.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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