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Kenneth Bailey's Theory of Oral Tradition: A Theory Contested by Its Evidence

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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Abstract

This is a critique of Kenneth Bailey's theory of oral tradition, a theory which he calls 'informal oral controlled tradition'. Bailey contends that informal oral controlled tradition is an oral methodology employed historically by Middle Eastern societies to preserve and transmit accurately the essential, fundamental components, per Bailey, of their oral traditions. Bailey posits that the same methodology was utilized by the Jesus movement from its outset to at least the time of the Roman-Jewish War in order to preserve accurately and transmit faithfully the essential historical core of its remembrance of Jesus. However, this critique finds that the evidence Bailey marshals in support of his theory not only fails finally to support it but at critically important points witnesses against it.

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