Were the Stories of Jesus Radically Changed Before They Were Written Down? My Review of Bart Ehrman’s Latest
If one accepts the dating of some modern scholars, the earliest canonical gospel–the Gospel of Mark–was not written until 70 AD or later.
This means there was a gap of time of about 40 years between the life of Jesus and our earliest Gospel that records his words and deeds.
What happened to the stories of Jesus during this period of time? Since such stories were largely passed down orally, can this process be trusted? Did Christians change the stories along the way? Is it reasonable to think that Christians could have even remembered the details accurately?
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 … Continue reading...