Rafael Rodríguez, PhD Speaking of Jesus: “Oral Tradition” beyond the Form Criticsrrodriguez@jbc.edu SECSOR (March 2011)Johnson Bible College (Knoxville, TN) Louisville, KY
: oral tradition; media criticism; form criticism; Jesus tradition; orality
Kelber’s conceptualization of “orality” asserted itself in his reading of
texts, a movewhich I find revolutionary among biblical scholars.
ELBER AND THE
Despite the sophistication of his media-critical perspective, Kelber betrays certain influencesinherited from the form critics. These abiding influences aren’t an indictment against Kel-ber’s scholarship but rather an indication of the tenacity of form criticism’s legacy.
a. Conceiving “Oral Tradition”Contemporary media criticism exhibits considerable interest in “oral tradition,” as didtheir form-critical forebears. However, they conceptualize the referent of thatphrase
in fundamentally different terms.b. Plotting Christian TraditionThe form-critical conception of
as discrete, source-critical entities en-abled scholars to postulate evolutionary trajectories and triangulate forms of the tradi-tion predating our written sources. Contemporary media critics, in contrast, need toeschew evolutionary models in light of the reconfiguration of
men-tioned in the previous section.c. Writing Voices, Speaking SignsTaking the role of
seriously means approaching the gospels as “oral-derived texts,” and specifically as the kind of oral-derived text that John Miles Foleycalls “Voices from the Past.”
If contemporary media criticism is to have any lasting effect on the academic study of theBible, it will need to disassociate itself from its form-critical legacy and posture itself as aparadigmatically new form of critical inquiry.
composition: performance: reception:Oral Performance: oral oral auralVoiced Texts: written oral aural
Voices from the Past: oral/written oral/written aural/written
Written Oral Poems: written written written
Table 1: See John Miles Foley,
How to Read an Oral Poem
(Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 38–53.