Eerdmans Bible Dictionary says this about Oral Tradition:
There can be no doubt that most of the Bible existed first in oral form. The oracles of the prophets, the psalms of the Jerusalem cult, the parables and teachings of Jesus all were first delivered verbally. The major dispute among scholars concerns the length of time between the first verbal delivery and the time when the material was written down.
A few days ago at JAVA, I was sitting with some friends, and we were sharing stories of our childhoods, of when we broke our first bone, got our first stitches, etc. I began to share the story of how I broke my arm in 2nd grade. I shared how it was Friday Free Day in PE (or at least I think it was) and they brought out all those PE blue gym-mats and we would run up them and jump off. A girl who was ahead of me in line did a little 360 degree circle-spin-thingy (or at least, I think she did) and then the girl directly ahead of me did a somersault (or at least that’s how I remember it). So, in my desire to show them up, I tried to mix both of those fancy moves and landed on the ground, on my stomach on top of my right arm. Broke it. Right there.
Now, as I was telling this story, I began to wonder…”Did those girls really do those things? Maybe one of them just did a 360…could a 2nd grade girl do a somersault and land it?” Did the story that I tell actually happen as I remember it, or have I been simply creating these memories by telling and retelling this story so often.
Another example. One of the pivotal moments along my spiritual journey was when I went up to my mother, in our kitchen, and said to her, “I don’t think I’m a Christian mom.” I wrote about it in an essay, and have always thought about that moment. Last year I sent an essay to my mother, in which I relayed that moment, and she wrote back saying that she didn’t remember that event happening at all. So, what is up with that? Did I, in a sense, “create” that memory to help explain my spiritual journey to others? If so, why? Where did the initial memory come from?
So, here is the question and relation to the oral tradition of Scripture. IF the Bible first existed in oral form, and IF human nature is the same in antiquity as it is now — what would stop people from adding their own little bits, exaggerations and changing stuff around a bit? God? God would stop it? And if that is true – IF that happened – does it really matter? Regardless of whether or not the girl actually did a somersault in front me, I broke my arm. Regardless of whether or not I actually spoke those exact words to my mother, there was a time in my life when I doubted my faith as a Christian. To use a very basic example…regardless of whether God created the world in 7 literal 24-hr days, God Created. Regardless….see where I’m going….? Thoughts?