oral tradition

Material passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. There was a long process of gestation before books of the OT reached their final written form. In ancient Israel pieces of poetry, stories of heroes, legends about founding figures, and songs of celebration circulated amongst groups and tribes. Repeatedly accounts of the momentous events of the Exodus [[➝ Exodus, the]] and the wilderness journeys were transmitted to descendants and these were followed later by accounts of the early kings and the prophets; they all gathered embellishments and reinterpretations in the process. Then written collections were assembled—of laws, of prophetic utterances, stories about particular individuals. These writings in turn became the raw material for the recognizable written sources which can now be identified in the Pentateuch. Some modern scholars, especially in Scandinavia, where comparisons have been made with the Norse epics, have argued for a very long period of oral tradition; but it is more usually held that written sources go back to about the 10th cent. BCE.
The NT also had a period, much shorter, during which stories about Jesus and the first Christians were passed from person to person, and group to group, as the needs of teaching and controversy required. It meant that much material that was not needed simply perished and that what survived has passed through the modifications, interpretations, and theological reflections that the occasions demanded, though no doubt a limit was set to development by reason of the retentive memories of those days. Sayings of Jesus were assembled and may have been strung together and used when the gospels were written. Matt. and Luke contain parables and shorter sayings of Jesus in their gospels, though their original contexts may have been lost. Mark compiled a Passion [[➝ passion]] narrative with great care, to which he attached the eschatological [[➝ eschatology]] predictions and affirmations of ch. 13, and prefaced all this with a rapid account of Jesus' journeys, conflicts, choice of disciples, miracles, and parables expounding and proclaiming the advent of the kingdom of God.
Oral tradition was not a Christian innovation. It was an established medium of Jewish scribes and rabbis. It was necessary to update the written injunctions of the Torah, so there were many legal stipulations (halakah) and homiletic expositions of the OT narratives (haggadah), and this oral transmission continued for several centuries until finally established in the Mishnah.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • Oral tradition — A Kyrgyz manaschi See also: Oral tradition and the historical Jesus Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another.[1] …   Wikipedia

  • oral tradition — Cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by storytellers. The forms of oral tradition include poetry (often chanted or sung), folktales, and proverbs as well as magical spells, religious instruction, and recollections of the …   Universalium

  • ORAL TRADITION —    the TRADITIONAL wisdom of PRE MODERN societies transmitted by word of mouth rather than written documents. Most religious traditions contain an oral element and many SCRIPTURES seem to have passed through an oral stage before finally being… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • oral tradition — n. orally transmitted traditions and laws …   English contemporary dictionary

  • oral tradition —  Устная традиция …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • oral tradition — /ˌɒrəl trəˈdɪʃən/ (say .oruhl truh dishuhn) noun the customs and beliefs of the past handed down in a spoken medium, as by folklore, storytelling, etc …   Australian English dictionary

  • Oral Tradition Journal — Oral Tradition is an academic journal founded in 1986 by John Miles Foley and seeks to provide a comparative and interdisciplinary focus for studies in oral tradition and related fields by publishing research and scholarship on the creation,… …   Wikipedia

  • Oral Tradition (journal) — Oral Tradition is a peer reviewed academic journal established in 1986 by John Miles Foley covering studies in oral tradition and related fields. As well as essays treating certifiably oral traditions, the journal presents investigations of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Oral tradition and the historical Jesus — Sermon on the Mount Jesus (like other rabbis) would have expounded and debated the Torah orally, though some may have made private notes (megillot setarim) The Oral Tradition, is the cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one… …   Wikipedia

  • Oral transmission (synoptic problem) — Oral Transmission is a different approach to understanding the Synoptic Gospels in New Testament scholarship. Current theories attempt to link the three synoptic gospels together through a common textual tradition. However, many problems arise… …   Wikipedia


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