In my last post I was trying to imagine what the situation was with the first and second century Gospels, and proposed a Scenario One in which there were set Gospels, some earlier than others, with later ones using earlier ones for some of their information, along with other information from other Gospels (and oral traditions) that no longer survive. I guess that’s how I tend to view the situation some of the time. But I wonder if in fact the reality was a lot messier than that (I call the first scenario messy because it is *not* the simpler view that a lot of people assume: that there were basically four Gospels from the first century and in the second century the Gospels either borrowed from those Gospels or made things up; that’s a pretty “clean” view of the situation. But I don’t think it’s plausible).
Scenario Two: Much Messier without Fixed Boundaries
I have begun to suspect that the real situation was even messier than the first option I sketched. What if, for example, even with the Gospels that became the four, there were not fixed traditions but loose ones, in which, say, a Gospel went through multiple editions as it was put in circulated and as it interacted with oral traditions that preceded it, as scribes who copied it were influenced by oral traditions that the Gospel itself inspired, that the book itself was in different forms in the written tradition, was also passed along orally, again in different forms, and it influenced other Gospels in one of its *many* forms instead of the one form we are familiar with today?
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