As I have been discussing my next book Jesus Before the Gospels, I have been trying to summarize the issues I’ll be addressing and the points I’ll be making, without spilling all the beans and stealing my own thunder. My idea is to get people interested in the book without making them think they don’t now need to read it! I’m not sure how successful I’m being at that, but it’s at least the goal.
As I started indicating in the previous post, chapter 5 deals with issues involving oral tradition as preserved in oral culture. It turns out that most of what many (most?) of us have heard about oral cultures, or what has to many (most?) of us seemed commonsensical about them, is wrong. At least in so far as research has been able to show, by actually studying oral cultures.
What many of us have heard or thought is that oral cultures were particularly keen to keep their oral traditions intact and preserved without significant (or any) variation. We’ve heard stories about how this culture or another preserved its sacred traditions for centuries without changing a thing. But it appears that this view is bogus. There is no evidence for it. On the contrary, all the evidence appears to indicate that this very *idea* that traditions should be preserved from person to person, year to year, decade to decade, actually the same without any changes, is an idea that can be found only in written cultures.
Since the advent of massive literacy…
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