Scholar Relates Gospel Traditions to the “Telephone” Game!

Scholar Relates Gospel Traditions to the “Telephone” Game!

Question Mark

Speaking candidly on the historicity of the gospel traditions, especially its transmission, New Testament Scholar Bart Ehrman makes the following intriguing comparison:

 

“You are probably familiar with the old birthday party game “telephone.” A group of kids sits in a circle, the first tells a brief story to the one sitting next to her, who tells it to the next, and to the next, and so on, until it comes back full circle to the one who started it. Invariably, the story has changed so much in the process of retelling that everyone gets a good laugh. Imagine this same activity taking place, not in a solitary living room with ten kids on one afternoon, but over the expanse of the Roman Empire (some 2,500 miles across), with thousands of participants – from different backgrounds, with different concerns, and in different contexts – some of whom have to translate the stories into different languages. The situation, in fact, was even more complicated than that.” (The New Testament – A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Chapter 3, Where it All Began: The Traditions of Jesus in Their Greco-Roman Context, p.44)

 

One of the very reasons why Qur’an had to be revealed with narrations of Jesus (peace be upon him) in it was because, as evident from above, the actual revelations given to or the words uttered by Jesus (peace be upon him) were lost in their transmission. With this the actual message of Christ (peace be upon him) was also lost. As on mere conjectures eternal fates could not be banked, the final Messenger (peace be upon him) was given divine glimpses of the life of Jesus (peace be upon him).

We also need to make a healthy parallel comparison of the transmission of Gospel traditions to that of Qur’an and Hadith. It was an extremely imperative, prudent and monumental task undertaken by Muslim scholars to protect the chain of transmission of Qur’an and Sunnah in the form of “Isnads”.

We have detailed biographies of all the people involved in the transmission of Islamic narratives right from the beginning. Just vicariously imagine the chaos which was circumvented by preserving transmission chains of Qur’an and Hadith – it was not let to take form of some “Telephone” game!

 

Further Readings:

 

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Comments

  • Oliver Elphick  On January 27, 2013 at 3:32 am

    What a load of nonsense!

    Of course, Ehrman is an apostate who now needs to find justification for his unbelief. The idea that the Christian traditions were modified by being passed around the Roman empire is just ridiculous.

    One of the qualifications for even considering something as scriptural was that it should come from or be approved by an apostle, someone who had known Jesus personally. That is the control that Ehrman completely ignores.

    The actual reason for Mohammed’s putting various stories about Jesus in the Quran is that he had picked them up from various dubious sources, such as the apocryphal gospels, along with some pure invention of his own. They have no historical support whatever!

  • Hussaini  On February 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Indeed Prof. Bart D. Ehrman has aptly described how the oral tradition used in the composition of the Gospels was derived. Quite telling of how unreliable are the contents of these books! Mr. Oliver has nothing against this embarrassing fact except mere denial!
    Mr. Oliver wrote: “One of the qualifications for even considering something as scriptural was that it should come from or be approved by an apostle, someone who had known Jesus personally. That is the control that Ehrman completely ignores.”
    This shows that none of the New Testament books and letters actually qualifies to be a ‘scripture’ for the fact that critical Bible scholarship established that no personal acquaintance of Jesus Christ was actually responsible for any of the New Testament books and letters. This is indeed the stand of Prof. Ehrman and the majority of New Testament scholars. The conservative Christian scholar Tom Wright reveals:
    “What do we know about how the Gospels got written? Frustratingly little. We don’t have Matthew’s diaries of how he went about collecting and arranging his material. We don’t know where Mark was written. We don’t know whether Luke really was, as is often thought, the companion of Paul. We don’t know whether the ‘Beloved Disciple’, to whom the Fourth Gospel is ascribed (John 21:24), was really ‘John’ (in which case, which ‘John’?) or someone else. None of the books name their authors; all the traditions about who wrote which ones are just that, traditions, from later on in the life of the church (beginning in the first half of the second century, about fifty years after the Gospels were written)” (Tom Wright, The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary, 1997, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 126-127).
    Prof. Emeritus Edwin D. Freed says,
    “Most NT scholars agree that the gospels are anonymous and that the present titles probably were not added until sometimes in the second century. Because the form of the title is the same for every gospel, a title was probably given to each only after the gospels had been collected as a group of four. Then the name of a well-known person was included in the superscription of each gospel. But the superscription read, ‘the gospel according to’, not ‘the gospel by’ Matthew or Mark or Luke, so the gospels as we now have them are anonymous“(Edwin D. Freed, The New Testament, A Critical Introduction (2001) Wadsworth. p. 123).
    Critical Bible scholarship established that earthly oral tradition (common-sayings of the then people described by Prof. Ehrman above) and some earthly written sources, rather than St. Peter, were the sources of Mark’s Gospel. The Introduction to the NAB says:
    “Although the book is anonymous…. Petrine influence should not, however, be exaggerated. The evangelist has put together various oral and possibly written sources–miracle stories, parables, sayings, stories of controversies, and the passion–so as to speak of the crucified Messiah for Mark’s own day”.( http://www.nccbuscc.org/bible/mark/0)
    Concerning Luke’s sources, critical Bible scholarship established also that Paul of Tarsus (who never met Jesus throughout Jesus ministry and whose self-claimed of apostleship remains only a matter of ‘faith’) could not be definitely proven to have guaranteed the book (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, I-IX; Doubleday, 1981; Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke ,Liturgical Press, 1991 etc)
    Bible scholars have established that none of all the other New Testament books and letters is traceable to any personal apostle of Jesus (Burton L. Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1996), Raymond Edward Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997 etc). Therefore, this proves that none of the New Testament writings is really a scripture.
    Mr. Oliver wrote: “The actual reason for Mohammed’s putting various stories about Jesus in the Quran is that he had picked them up from various dubious sources, such as the apocryphal gospels, along with some pure invention of his own. They have no historical support whatever!”
    He is obsessed with making such bold but completely unfounded claims against Islam obviously for his being influenced by anti-Islamic polemics. I suggest the following link for a thorough refutation of the Qur’anic borrowing theories (http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Sources/ ).

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