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The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition Paperback – November 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Birger Gerhardsson is professor emeritus in the Faculty of Theology at Lund University, Sweden. He is the author of Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity and Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity.

Donald A. Hagner is George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. His publications include The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus and commentaries on Hebrews and Matthew.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565636678
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565636675
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,567,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Jeri VINE VOICE on February 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
Gerhardsson's doctoral work - 'Memory and Manuscript' - broke new ground in the discussion about orality and the gospels. He insisted there was an oral tradition behind the gospels. And he had the courage to argue this in a time when every biblical scholar was sure, sure, sure, that the only thing standing behind the gospels was a Q sayings gospel.

However, Second Temple Jews did not live in a society that was saturated by the written word, as ours is. Oral traditions were as binding as scripture. (Josephus-Antiquities 10.2.1 XIII,297 and Philo -10.2.2 The Special Laws IV 143-150) and every bit as carefully kept.

So Gerhardsson argues that it is therefore important to note how often the gospels refer to 'the tradition of the elders" (Mark 7:3, Matt 15:2). The gospels are dotted with such screamingly obvious references. Again and again in the gospels and in Paul we find "Jewish ...quasi-technical terms...'to pass on'...paradidonai", (p 14), meaning to pass on binding oral tradition.

You could pass on (paradosis) traditions, as Paul mentions in 1 Cor 11:2 and hand the traditions to someone else (paradidonai). Paul is forever telling "young Christian congregations...to 'maintain' or 'hold fast to' or 'uphold' these traditions; the verbs used here are, among others, kratein (1 Thess 2:15, katechein (1 Cor II:2) and hetekenai (1 Cor 15:1) (p 15).

How could oral traditions be relied upon? Were they accurate? Jewish schools (and there are Jewish schools mentioned in 1 Maccabees 1:14) taught by memorization. All ancient societies relied on unending, constant repetition in their schools.

The "Romans used to say that repetition is the mother of all knowledge. Ancient Jewish pedagogy was in complete agreement.
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