The Gospels (2): Oral Culture

I got through explaining the categories of Gospels we have in the bible. Stuff like how three of the Gospels we have are somewhat similar in their content (Matthew, Mark and Luke) which are called the Synoptic Gospels and that John stands alone namely because his gospel has a different slant to it. Let move furture to what McKnight states “how we got from Jesus to the Gospels…”(4). I will be reffering to Scot McKnight’s little introduction book on Jesus, “The Story of the Christ”, most of the time, as our main text book to derive information.

One of the things that we have to understand of the Galilean culture then was that they were “predominantly an oral culture and not a written culture like ours.”(4) To explain a little about an oral culture, they simply store information via memory and passing it on orally. Some may not understand this, but those who are tribal people would have some information about this. For example; my grandfather can remember my native tribal stories, legends if you wish. And these stories are in poetic form and in our ancient Kelabit (Kelabit; my race, a small native tribe in Malaysia living on the island called Borneo) dialect which the younger generation has no access to. I am fascinated at my granddad’s memory and which is why I do see a good basis for oral cultures able to remember with persicion what is passed on.

These oral cultures as Scot explains “…see and they hear and they remember, and what they focus on are the ‘big facts’ and the ‘major sayings’ and the ‘big picture’.” (4) Another thing to be brought to our attention on when people in these cultures communicate their oral facts McKnight explains

“…when they come to reciting whatever they choose to recite, their given performance will ‘colour the situation’ or ‘set the context’ and these colourings and shadings will either be typical or specific, but no one would worry about whether or not the contextual shadings are precisely what was done on the specific situation.” (4-5)

In other words, the explanation of facts are fitted to a given situation. This is basically what shaped the content on which we find in the gospels we have.

What needs to be understood about our gospels and the oral culture that shaped them is that though what we have in the gospels are not what Jesus said word-for-word, “but instead a reliable oral tradition about what Jesus said and to whom he said such things and where he said such things.” (5)

The next post will wedge the oral transmission process of the Gospel (what we were doing in this post) with the question of the language Jesus spoke.

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