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The End of Orality: Transmission of Gospel Tradition in the Second and Third Centuries

Charlesworth, Scott D. (2014) The End of Orality: Transmission of Gospel Tradition in the Second and Third Centuries. In: Between Orality and Literacy: Communication and Adaptation in Antiquity. Orality and Literacy in the Ancient World(10), ed. Scodel, Ruth. Brill, Leiden, pp. 331-355. ISBN 978-90-04-26912-5

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In a recent book Goodacre observes that in the early days of scholarship on the Gospel of Thomas “the majority view was that Thomas knew the Synoptic Gospels. These days, essays on the state of the question tend to represent the debate as a scholarly split, half on the side of Thomas’s independence, half on the side of its dependence on the Synoptics.” While this may be true quantitatively, the independence view, with its easy dismissal of dependence by means of an appeal to orality, has probably been more influential. Even though Goodacre argues that the Gospel of Thomas knew the synoptics, he avoids the word “dependence” because it associates “a text that is apparently so oral in nature” with “literary dependence” (sc. slavish derivation from the synoptics). Instead, he suggests that the Gospel of Thomas accessed the synoptic materials through memory. “While it is not impossible” that the author had manuscripts on hand, “the logistical efforts involved in that enterprise are far greater than those involved with recalling texts from memory.” Goodacre thinks that his attempt to chart a via media might also explain what is happening in other “second-century texts that are familiar with but not necessarily dependent on the canonical Gospels.” Despite its many good points, this approach – just like the independence view with which it takes issue – underestimates the impact of literacy on the transmission of gospel tradition in the second and third centuries. The papyrological evidence often connotes the physical consultation of manuscripts of the synoptic gospels or, at the very least, of synoptic or thematic compilations of the same. That adds up to dependence, albeit very creative dependence.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
Keywords: gospels, Thomas, orality, literacy, Greek, papyri, dependence, independence
Fields of Research: 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950406 Religious Traditions (excl. Structures and Rituals)
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: B - Biblical Studies, general
B - New Testament
College/Association with University of Divinity: Trinity College Theological School
Depositing User: Dr Scott Charlesworth
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2016 04:46
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2016 04:46
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2015

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