Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oral Transmission of the New Testament

I was reading Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses the other night at work and I had a thought. Did skepticism ever play an editorial role in the oral tradition/scribal habits in ancient times? Granted, I realize that most of the hyper-skepticism today is the result of the Enlightenment, however, Herodotus mentions in several places in his The Histories that he thinks certain things are dubious, yet he records them anyway (and the things about which he has doubts generally turn out to be right!). But do we know of instances where the miraculous is edited out or "toned down" because of the skepticism of the storyteller/scribe.

Also, Bauckham says that the Gospel of John is written by an eyewitness, the "Beloved Disciple." The classic view on the Gospel of John is that it gives the highest Christology. Operating within Bauckham's theories, I wonder if a case could be made for the Evangelists (atleast Matthew and Luke) "toning down" the high Christology we see in John. I'm not saying that John was a source, but that the common oral history concerning a miraculous Jesus passed to the Evangelists was not edited out completely (we still have a Jesus who forgives sins, heals people, etc) but perhaps toned down?
Mind you, I realize that there are a number of complications with this idea. And I'm not advocating the idea, I'm simply wondering if there's any possibility to that being a viable idea.


Danny Zacharias said...

Its a good question, but let me add that I don't think the christology in Matthew is toned down at all, perhaps just stated differently. Of the synoptics, the Christology of Matthew is the highest.

So we have an interesting possibility: Matthew, usually proclaimed as the most Jewish gospel, as well as John, which since the discovery of the DSS is not understood to be thoroughly Jewish as well, have the highest christologies. Our two most 'jewish' gospels speak about Jesus as divine. Very interesting.

The paper I delivered at the past SBL and which has now been submitted looked at some of the high christology of Matthew, particularly relating to some of the Son of Man sayings.


Josh McManaway said...

Good point! Very interesting. Thanks for the comment.