The Crown Jewels
This week I prepared a review for a book on Amazon. But when I tried to post the review the troubles came. I had not the right to post because I had not spent $50,= the last year on Amazon. In the meanwhile I send you a description of the three crown jewels. Maybe for some of you an easy way to print it out, and you have them all together.
To your pleasure!
The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:1–4 about the oral and written traditions of Jesus’ works. Regarding the oral tradition, John says in v. 2 “We saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life.” This is a striking sentence for several reasons. “Testify” refers to sharing one’s own experiences through seeing and hearing. “Proclaim” (apaggello, to make known from the source) refers to sharing the meaning of these experiences right from the source.
The two activities are in the present tense. I.e. these activities (testify and proclaim) began long ago when the disciples experienced Jesus and continued as John wrote his letter. They are “presents of past actions still in progress” (Burton).
In v. 3 and 4, John mentions again two apostolic activities that started with Jesus: 3 “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you … 4 And these things we write, that our joy may be full.” This is the written transmission! Again two activities (proclaim from the source, and write) as “presents of past actions still in progress”.
This is making known and spreading knowledge by writing of what Jesus had said and done. That is the written tradition starting at the beginning of Jesus’ work: writing records at the source and later writing gospels after his death. In these gospels alone a complete picture of Jesus could be spread.
Two traditions (an oral and a written tradition) had started at the well Jesus had been to the apostles. And there has never been an interruption in them, as is evident from the use of the present tenses. The apostles documented the works of Jesus during his lifetime, and they released their reports in gospels shortly thereafter, and copied them since then.
In Hebr 2:3 Paul emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ written words (own translation, elaborated on RSV): 3 “How shall we escape, if we neglect such a great salvation, which from the beginning that it was spoken by the mouth of the Lord, was laid down (put on record) for us by those who were listening, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders, etc.” The listeners could not “confirm” Jesus’ words, or “deliver orally during their listening”. The two meanings of the verb (bebaioō) are: confirm your words by your actions afterwards. And the second meaning: guarantee previously the spoken word in a (lease or sale) document at the start, as is found in the papyri: assure. The two meanings: confirm and assure the spoken word are still used in Modern Greek. The second meaning is here the necessary option, establish (lay down) by writing of the spoken word.
Finally a brief remark about Luke the evangelist. One has always translated in Luke 1:1–2 as if it were a passive, instead of the active voice (in v. 2) as follows, 1“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, 2 just as delivered to us the eyewitnesses from the beginning also being ministers of the (spoken) word, … “
Take note 1. “The things which have been accomplished among us,” are the works of Jesus. “Us” are the bystanders, a mixed group of spectators. The same “us” is repeated in v. 2, to them the eyewitnesses delivered, to the spectators of Jesus’ works!
Take note 2. How did they deliver? They delivered also being servants of the spoken word. This excluded oral tradition, it would obstruct the spoken word of the Jesus’ events. They could only deliver in writing during the spoken word. The inevitable conclusion: The service to the spoken word of the works of Jesus included the writing of the actual sayings of Jesus.
The Biblical picture is: shorthand writers followed Jesus, taking notes and writing short reports of the events. They shared the reports with the spectators who could write on wax tablets what they had experienced themselves. At home, they could share what they had seen and heard by reading their accounts.
What about the spoken word in the gospels? Do we read the actual words of Jesus? Yes! We have the statement of Jesus “My words shall by no means pass away!” (Compare Matt 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33.) When Jesus said this, he was not referring to a later inspiration through the Holy Spirit neither to “a guarantee” of a later oral tradition, but to the existing reports his disciples had made during his works and teachings.
In traditional theology, this is seen quite differently. It is supposed that the preaching of the apostles (oral tradition) would have been the source for the gospels, including discrepancies and even contradictions. It might be shocking, but the three Crown Jewels absolutely contradict this general “Theological” opinion of ages.