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Oral Tradition and the Gospels

The problem of oral tradition is well known, for without some theory of this medium no history of Jesus would be possible. This study examines Mark 4.1-34 in the light of three distinctive models of orality: Rudolf Bultmann's form-critical method, B. Gerhardsson's 'Memory and Manuscript' theory and the recent contribution of W. Kelber. The form-critically separate units in the test (allegory, parables and aphorisms) are examined on the basis of their attestation in various documents (Mark, Q, Thomas) to determine whether independent versions of these sayings can be identified and what they tell us about the oral phase and Jesus. This analysis suggests that the criteria for authenticity of 'distinctiveness' and 'multiple attestation' need to be re-examined in light of the folkloric understanding of orality.
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