Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

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MrMacSon
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Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:31 pm

Thomas L Brodie’s 2012 'Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus' has an Epilogue about Bart Ehrman’s 2012 'Did Jesus Exist?' in which Brodie says the key role that Ehrman attributes to oral tradition in the development of the narratives about Jesus does not correspond to any known model of oral tradition, and he notes that Ehrman makes no reference to recent concerns about ‘oral tradition’ (which Brodie addresses elsewhere in his book; chapter 12).

Brodie noted that since 1970 it has been recognised that NT texts are based on other literature, often older scripture, such as the OT, and perhaps other concurrent texts. He says –

“The New testament books are Scripture reshaping Scripture to speak to a changed situation, and they may also reshape each other. Yet, whatever its source, each text is worked into something distinctive … The dependence of the gospels on the Old Testament and on other extant texts is incomparably clearer and more verifiable than [their] dependence on any oral tradition- as seen, for instance, in the thorough dependence of Jesus’ call to disciples (Luke 9:57-62) on Elijah’s call (I Kings 19). The sources supply not only a framework but a critical mass which pervades the later text.”
.

He noted that even N.T. Wright wrote in 2005 that “now all kinds of aspects of Paul are being tested for implicit and explicit [Old Testament] storylines.”

Brodie gets more pointed -

“Bart Ehrman’s study…summarises the criteria developed in the 1950s for tracing the historical Jesus”
.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Diogenes the Cynic » Mon Nov 19, 2018 4:47 pm

I wish I could get his book on Kindle. I'm glad he's calling out supposed underlying "oral tradition" for the wishful thinking that it really is.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:13 pm

Diogenes the Cynic wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 4:47 pm
I wish I could get his book on Kindle. I'm glad he's calling out supposed underlying "oral tradition" for the wishful thinking that it really is.
Yes, it's good he's calling out 'oral tradition', though he may do it better in his 2004 Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings, 2004, according to the Amazon review by Tom Dykstra, author of the well regarded Mark Canonizer of Paul, -
Tom Dykstra wrote:
... this is to my knowledge the most comprehensive and effectively argued attack on the idea of oral tradition that has yet been published anywhere and it should be read by anyone who is inclined to take that idea seriously.

These nine chapters offer an account of the incredible variety of ways that people in the ancient world created new works of literature by copying old ones; they refute the idea that the Old Testament or New Testament were unique exceptions to this pattern; they create and defend a series of criteria that scholars can use to determine when one literary work is dependent on another; they provide a brief history explaining how the process of creating literary works worked in the ancient world; they refute the idea that the New Testament authors could have been so isolated that each could somehow write in complete ignorance of the others' works; and they reach a well-substantiated conclusion that much of the New Testament - even including the epistles of Paul -- was produced by a single far-flung community rather than by isolated individuals.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-revi ... 1905048661
Brodie's 'Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus' is more an autobiographical anthology.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by arnoldo » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:29 pm

The following review :Verheyden, Joseph. “Biblica.” Biblica, vol. 87, no. 3, 2006, pp. 439–442. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42614699 brought up a point which came to mind. Brodie appears to present that the gospels must have either an entirely literary origin or based on oral tradition. The reviewers raises another possibility whether the gospels were influenced by both traditions and literature. The reviewer notes that Brodie rejects this possibility when he states, “The analysis indicates that in the question of the composition of the New Testament, the idea of oral tradition is new, unfounded, unworkable and unnecessary.”

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by arnoldo » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:35 pm

Diogenes the Cynic wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 4:47 pm
I wish I could get his book on Kindle. I'm glad he's calling out supposed underlying "oral tradition" for the wishful thinking that it really is.
Amazon has another book of his available for $9.99 on kindle. Google books has a preview available.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Irish1975 » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:11 pm

FWIW, here is a bit of my amazon review of Beyond the Quest (https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-revi ... 190753458X):
The book recounts the author's struggle over many decades both to substantiate his insights in the respectable academic journals and universities, and to make sense of it in his life as a priest. It is not a page turner, but for those interested in advanced study of the Bible, it is not boring either.

The author criticizes the dominant paradigm of 20th century Jesus scholarship, form criticism, according to which the 4 gospel narratives came into being through a three-stage process: events, oral tradition, writing. Brodie is quite devastating about this model, noting that there is no evidence for it, it has no analogues in the ancient world or elsewhere, and it has produced poor results. In other words, there is no reason to think that oral tradition works in the way that historical Jesus scholarship generally requires it to work. Brodie picks apart the work of John Meier and Bart Ehrman.
Personal note: I spent 4 years in the Dominican Order myself, so I was especially interested in his personal evolution. I wonder what he's doing these days. I would like to hope that some of his fellow Dominicans read his work and take it seriously, but I doubt that they do.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Irish1975 » Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:49 pm

About Brodie's argument in chapter 12 of Beyond the Quest...

The orality of ancient literature is not in dispute, nor is the fact that past events can be remembered and transmitted in story-telling. Brodie gives as an example his parents' recollections, transmitted to him in story, of important events in early 20th century Irish politics. The issue for biblical criticism is, rather, how to "deduce from a piece of writing that it is based on oral transmission." Brodie quotes James Dunn admitting that the theory of oral tradition is a presumption. Dunn thinks the presumption is necessary, and Brodie doesn't.

What is the theory of oral tradition? This is more than what Brodie offers, but in line with his argument:

1) There are 4 Gospels, but only one Jesus.
2) The historical Jesus died in 30 CE, but the Gospels were composed in 70-100 CE.
3) The 4-Gospel portrait of Jesus Christ in the NT is to some large extent mythical, but the historical Jesus was a real, definite, human, non-mythical person.
4) Conclusion: "Something is needed to bridge the gap," and an evolving but essentially reliable oral tradition process is the only plausible candidate.

So, oral tradition produces multiple streams of remembrance, which diverge because of both time and anthropological plurality. It connects The Bible Jesus with a postulated historical figure. And it generates both faith and memory, which are not exactly mutually reinforcing, but are also not essentially at war with each other. The hidden premiss, of course, is that theory of oral tradition is a great boon for historical jesus questers, at least in their questing careers if not in the moment of intellectual honesty when they have to arrive at conclusions and synthesis.

There is a beautiful analogy in chapter 12 to the long dominant theory in physics that postulated luminiferous ether, a material medium in the sky that transmits light the way that railroad tracks transmit a train. The theory melted away with the accumulation of knowledge about atoms, light, outer space, etc. Brodie thinks that oral tradition is like this ether. We don't need it, because ancient literature didn't need it, and the Gospels fundamentally are literature, not records or memoir.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by FransJVermeiren » Thu Nov 22, 2018 7:12 am

Irish1975, thanks for your clear exposition. Also in my opinion the oral tradition concept is baseless, not in the first place because its defenders have never given a sound explanation how it would have worked, but because chronologically there is no need for it.

I gratefully use your enumeration above to show why oral tradition was not involved in the creation of the gospels.
1) There are 4 gospels, but only one Jesus.
2) The historical Jesus was active in the 60’s of the first century CE, and survived in 70 CE. The gospels were composed in 70-100 CE.
3) Jesus was a real, definite, human, non-mythical person. Mark and the other gospel writers after him have antedated his activity and experiences by 40 years to make their story acceptable in a Roman-dominated world. A significant part of the passion narrative is fiction. The synopticists smuggled the real course of events into their writings, albeit in an apocalyptic packing (the Synoptic Apocalypse).
4) Conclusion: Nothing is needed to bridge the gap because there is no gap. All four gospels have been written shortly after the events, each with its own angle of approach.

The gospels are not literature but history, albeit a special kind of history. An account of the real facts and circumstances would have been suicidal for the messianic movement that had stirred up the revolution against the Romans. The gospel writers wrote a ‘sterile’ version of the turbulent events of the war against the Romans and of the exceptional fact that turned the rebellion leader Jesus son of Saphat into their eagerly awaited messiah.
www.waroriginsofchristianity.com

The practical modes of concealment are limited only by the imaginative capacity of subordinates. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Nov 22, 2018 11:02 am

FransJVermeiren wrote:
Thu Nov 22, 2018 7:12 am
Irish1975, thanks for your clear exposition. Also in my opinion the oral tradition concept is baseless, not in the first place because its defenders have never given a sound explanation how it would have worked, but because chronologically there is no need for it.

I gratefully use your enumeration above to show why oral tradition was not involved in the creation of the gospels.
1) There are 4 gospels, but only one Jesus.
2) The historical Jesus was active in the 60’s of the first century CE, and survived in 70 CE. The gospels were composed in 70-100 CE.
3) Jesus was a real, definite, human, non-mythical person. Mark and the other gospel writers after him have antedated his activity and experiences by 40 years to make their story acceptable in a Roman-dominated world. A significant part of the passion narrative is fiction. The synopticists smuggled the real course of events into their writings, albeit in an apocalyptic packing (the Synoptic Apocalypse).
4) Conclusion: Nothing is needed to bridge the gap because there is no gap. All four gospels have been written shortly after the events, each with its own angle of approach.

The gospels are not literature but history, albeit a special kind of history. An account of the real facts and circumstances would have been suicidal for the messianic movement that had stirred up the revolution against the Romans. The gospel writers wrote a ‘sterile’ version of the turbulent events of the war against the Romans and of the exceptional fact that turned the rebellion leader Jesus son of Saphat into their eagerly awaited messiah.
Interesting. I suppose there are many ways to dispense with the oral tradition theory.

1) Why do you propose that Jesus lived later in the century, during the war?

2) I don't see how altering the chronology eliminates the gap. The gap is between the semi-mythical JC figure and a real human life, on the one hand, and on the other hand between or among the four gospels, most obviously between the synoptics and John. If, as it seems, you are interpreting the gospels as a kind of Judaic apocalyptic war propaganda, why is there a need to postulate a historical Jesus at all?

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Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by FransJVermeiren » Thu Nov 22, 2018 12:50 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Nov 22, 2018 11:02 am

Interesting. I suppose there are many ways to dispense with the oral tradition theory.
I did not construct my theory to put aside the oral tradition theory, it’s only one of its interesting side effects.

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Nov 22, 2018 11:02 am
1) Why do you propose that Jesus lived later in the century, during the war?
There are numerous veiled hints in all relevant writings of the period (The New Testament, Josephus, the Apostolic Fathers, the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament) that point to a war chronology and/or war circumstances of the events and/or survival of the protagonist Jesus. The core of my theory is published as A Chronological Revision of the Origins of Christianity. Since 2016 from time to time I publish supplementary findings on this forum. Its visitors are on the first row to follow the expansion of my theory.
One example: If my decoding of the Synoptic Apocalypse is correct, this chapter locates the coming of the messiah after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. See my topics on this subject on this forum: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3785 and viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3811&hilit=synoptic ... t+1#p81468

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Nov 22, 2018 11:02 am
2) I don't see how altering the chronology eliminates the gap. The gap is between the semi-mythical JC figure and a real human life, on the one hand, and on the other hand between or among the four gospels, most obviously between the synoptics and John. If, as it seems, you are interpreting the gospels as a kind of Judaic apocalyptic war propaganda, why is there a need to postulate a historical Jesus at all?
Eliminating a chronological anomaly solves a chronological problem, isn’t it? How else than in a chronological way is point 2 of your list to be interpreted?
I do not see the gospels as Judaic apocalyptic war propaganda. The arrival of a victorious human messiah during the war is totally in line with Essene messianic ideology (in the DSS). Jesus was victorious because he unexpectedly survived his crucifixion. The veiled hints mentioned above all point, like the gospels, to a historical Jesus. If Josephus in Life 421 says 'The third survived' (his crucifixion), then he is speaking about a real human being, I suppose.
www.waroriginsofchristianity.com

The practical modes of concealment are limited only by the imaginative capacity of subordinates. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

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