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Monday, 30 May 2016
Framing the Question II

Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,
Tom Thatcher ed., SBL, 2014, page 165-166

How did Kelber's work change things? According to Keith, Kelber demonstrated that the assumed inevitability of the tradition from oral to written gospel tradition was not, in fact inevitable. More, he asserts that:

... the assumed inevitable and organic nature of this transition was incongruent with a predominantly oral early Christian culture.

Kelber's two main points are:

  1. oral and written tradition are different: they have different dynamics of transmission and different social contexts in which they operate, differences perhaps highlighted for Kelber by the performative nature of oral tradition.
  2. if most early Christians were illiterate, what need had they of a written text? Plainly, the taking of notes and the cultivation of writig was a world away from the lifestyle of these prophetic transmitters of Jesus' sayings.

By pointing to the difference between oral and text traditions and the essentially oral culture of the first Christians, Keith exlains, Kelber framed the enduring question: Why did Mark write a Gospel?

Why did a written text emerge in an illiterate culture that had functioned well with the Jesus stories in an oral medium? What necessitated the medium transition?

Posted By Jonathan, 8:07am Comment Comments: 0