Were the Earliest Christians Only Concerned About Oral Tradition?

I’ve spent the last week or so diving deeply (again) into the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.  The Apostolic Fathers are an informal collection of early Christian writings, roughly 95-150 AD, which include books like the Didache, 1 & 2 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, and letters from Polycarp and Ignatius.

In recent years, scholars have expressed increased skepticism about whether these writings can inform our understanding of the development of the canon.  What appear to be citations of and allusions to New Testament books are not that at all, we are told, but instead are best explained by these authors drawing upon oral tradition.  This preference …

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10 Misconceptions About the NT Canon: #3: “The NT Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture”

 

Note: This is the third installment of a new blog series announced here.

Sometimes, even in the academic world, things get said so many times that people assume they are true.   And when that happens, no one bothers to look at the historical evidence in a fresh way.  This has certainly been the case when it comes to this third misconception about the New Testament canon. It is routine these days to assert that the New Testament authors certainly did not think they were writing Scripture, nor had any awareness of their own authority. Mark Allan Powell, in his recent New Testament introduction, affirms this view plainly, “The …

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Isn’t it Ironic…Ehrman attacked by Scholars on the Left

For most of his academic career, Bart Ehrman has busied himself with attacking the beliefs of evangelical Christians.  Having come out of an evangelical background, Ehrman seems bent on fixing what he sees as the major theological, historical and biblical problems in the evangelical world. I have reviewed some of his books, here, here, and here.

However, after the publication of his most recent book, Did Jesus Exist?, Ehrman has begun to experience something that I would imagine is entirely new to him—attacks from scholars on the left.  Indeed, Ehrman is now the recipient of scholarly attacks from those more radical than himself.   As Ehrman defends …

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10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #2: “Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon”

Note: This is the second installment of a new blog series announced here.

Contemporary challenges to the New Testament canon have taken a number of different forms over the years.  For generations, scholars have mainly focused upon the problem of the boundaries of the New Testament. The perennial question has usually been “How do we know we have the right books?”  But, in recent years, a new challenge has begun to take center stage (though it is really not new at all).  While the validity of the canon’s boundaries is still an area of concern, the attention has shifted to the validity of the canon’s very existence.  The …

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Early Jesus Notebooks as Aides-Mémoire

 

Michael Bird has recently posted a very helpful analysis of the interplay between written and oral traditions in early Christianity.  Unfortunately, modern scholars often pit these two modes of transmission against one another, as if early Christians could only have used one or the other.

But, we have every reason to think that both would have been used–and would have interfaced with one another–from the very start. Written notebooks/codices would have been aides-mémoire for recalling oral tradition.  Moreover, as eyewitnesses (the “living voice”) began to die out, early Christians would have wanted to preserve their voice for later generations.

Thus, written traditions did not exist in opposition to oral …

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