Monday, December 3, 2007

Werner Kelber, A Review Article

If you want to update yourself on issues of orality and scribality in early Christianity, Werner Kelber has just published a MUST READ review article on the subject.

3 comments: said...

The article is what I would describe as load of waffle.

If the writers of Judas used anti-priest/sacrifice and pro prophet/sanctuary language at the same time, I can only assume that they were incorporating for their own agenda what had recently been a source of Jewish controversy - a controversy surrounding Judas the principal character.

paulf said...

A couple of weeks back there was a question about whether scholars should write for a general audience. Well this pretentious twaddle is an example of why scholarly writing is so awful.

Just to read the first sentence: "The field of oral traditional literature concerns itself with the study of the compositional,
performative, and aesthetic aspects of living oral traditions and texts dependent on them" makes my head hurt.

First of all, starting an "article" with background is not compelling. Get to the point, then prove it with facts.

Second, each sentence is densely packed with way too many ideas, and too many archaic words. The brain has to stop at each jargony word like "performative" and digest it before the reader can move on, making the grasping of each sentence a drawn-out and painful process.

The sentences themselves are so convoluted that one wonders whether the author did it on purpose. For example, the first sentence contains the word "oral" and variants of "tradition" twice. Rice's English department presumably teaches freshmen students not to write that way. And if you took out the word "living" would that change the meaning? If not, why is it there?

Sorry to rant, but it is frustrating because I would like to learn about the subject.

John said...

This article does not really address an issue that I've been wanting to learn more about, which is: have any studies been done on the faithfulness of oral transmissions? I always had the idea from school that ancient peoples had better memories than us moderns, and that they could memorize stories, sagas, poems, etc., and not unconsciously alter them. Since the early Christian church depended so much on oral tradition, I'm just curious if anyone has written about the amount of alteration (even unconscious) that would have taken place on the gospel accounts before they were written down.