Friday, December 20, 2013
Rafael Rodriguez's Oral Tradition and the New Testament--Chris Keith
I recently received a copy of Rafael Rodriguez's new book, Oral Tradition and the New Testament (T&T Clark, 2014). I had the honor to read this work in pre-publication form and now want to underscore what a great study it is. Rodriguez represents a fresh voice in orality studies because he makes the important shift away from trying to identify traces of orality in written texts and toward understanding the roles of texts within cultural environments characterized by majority illiteracy. In other words, in rightly asserting that early Christianity was an "oral" culture, he does not make the subsequent and erroneous claim that it was, in some way, anti-textual, which has been a shortcoming of some (but not all) previous research in orality. In successive chapters, he describes the what, who, how, and why of oral tradition and New Testament studies. He discusses all the important topics and names, and even provides examples of how the understanding of orality that he forwards impacts exegesis. It's a quick read and I recommend it highly. Although things are far from certain right now, it looks like Rafael and this book will be featured in a special panel discussion at the 2014 British New Testament Conference in the Jesus and Gospels seminar, which will also feature Eric Eve and Larry Hurtado.