Oral gospel traditions
It refers to cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth and has kept New Testament scholars and historians occupied for nearly a hundred years. Early Christians sustained the Gospel message of Jesus, by sharing his stories and his teachings orally. This tradition consisted of parables, miracle stories, pronouncement stories, controversy stories, and other sayings, that formed the Oral gospel Tradition. Scholars now believe this oral transmission was the basis of the Christian Gospels and possibly other New Testament books. 
Critical methods: source and form criticism
Biblical scholars use a variety of critical methodologies known as biblical criticism. They apply source criticism to identify the written sources beneath the canonical gospels. Theologians generally understood that these written sources must have had a prehistory as oral tellings, but the very nature of oral transmission seemed to rule out the possibility of recovering them. However, in the early 20th century the German scholar Hermann Gunkel demonstrated a new critical method, form criticism, which he believed could discover traces of oral tradition in written texts. Gunkel specialized in Old Testament studies, but other scholars soon adopted and adapted his methods to the study of the New Testament.
The essence of form criticism is the identification of the Sitz im Leben, "situation in life", which gave rise to a particular written passage. When form critics discuss oral traditions about Jesus, they theorize about the particular social situation in which different accounts of Jesus were told. For New Testament scholars, this focus remains the Second Temple period. It needs be remembered that the First Century Palestine of Jesus was predominantly an oral society. 
A modern consensus exists that Jesus must be understood as being Jewish in a Jewish environment. According to scholar Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus was so very firmly rooted in his own time and place as a first-century Palestinian Jew — with his ancient Jewish comprehension of the world, and God, — that he does not translate easily into a modern idiom. Ehrman stresses that Jesus was raised in a Jewish household in the Jewish hamlet of Nazareth. He was brought up in a Jewish culture, accepted Jewish ways and eventually became a Jewish teacher, who, like other Jewish teachers of his time, debated the Law of Moses orally. Early Christians, sustained these teachings of Jesus orally. Rabbis or teachers in every generation were raised up and trained to deliver this Oral Tradition accurately. It consisted of two parts: the Jesus-Tradition (i.e., logia or sayings of Jesus) and Inspired Opinion. The distinction is one of authority: where the earthly Jesus has spoken on a subject, that word is to be regarded as an instruction or command. 
Oral traditions and the formation of the gospels
According to scholar Delbert Burkett, the Canonical Gospels of the New Testament as we know them went through four stages during their formation: The first stage was oral, and included various stories about Jesus such as healing the sick, or debating with opponents, as well as parables and teachings; in the second stage, the oral traditions began to be written down in collections (collections of miracles, collections of sayings, etc.), while the oral traditions continued to circulate; in the third stage, early Christians began combining the written collections and oral traditions into what might be called "proto-gospels" – hence Luke's reference to the existence of "many" earlier narratives about Jesus; in the fourth stage, the authors of our four Gospels drew on these proto-gospels, collections, and still-circulating oral traditions to produce the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Mark, Matthew and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they have such a high degree of interdependence. It is generally agreed by modern scholars that Mark was the first of the gospels to be written (see, Markan priority). The author does not seem to have used extensive written sources, but rather to have woven together small collections and individual traditions into a coherent presentation. It is generally, although not universally, agreed that the authors of Matthew and Luke used as sources the gospel of Mark and a collection of sayings called the Q source. These two together account for the bulk of each of Matthew and Luke, with the remainder made up of smaller amounts of source material unique to each, called the M source for Matthew and the L source for Luke, which may have been a mix of written and oral material (see, Two-source hypothesis). Most scholars believe that John's gospel involved the use of oral and written sources different to those available to the Synoptic authors – a "signs" source, a "revelatory discourse" source, and others, and there are indications that the author may also have used the Synoptics as well.
Oral transmission may also be seen as a different approach to understanding the Synoptic Gospels in New Testament scholarship. Current theories attempt to link the three synoptic gospels together through a common textual tradition. However, many problems arise when linking these three texts together (see, the Synoptic problem). This has led many scholars to hypothesize the existence of a fourth document from which Matthew and Luke drew upon independently of each other (for example, the Q source). The Oral Transmission hypothesis based on the oral tradition steps away from this model, proposing instead that this common, shared tradition was transmitted orally rather than through a lost document.
- Wansbrough 2004, p. 9.
- Dunn 2013, pp. 3-5.
- Muilenburg 1969, pp. 1-18.
- Casey 2010, pp. 141-3.
- Ehrman 2012, p. 84.
- Dunn 2013, pp. 290-1.
- Van Voorst 2000, p. 5 – "One of the most influential researchers in historical Jesus scholarship is the Jewish historian Geza Vermes, whose work has been important in shaping a consensus that Jesus must be understood as a Jew in a Jewish environment."
- Ehrman 2012, pp. 13,86,276.
- Dunn 2013, pp. 19,55.
- Burkett 2002, p. 124.
- Telford 2011, pp. 13–29.
- Scholz 2009, pp. 166–7.
- Dunn 2003, pp. 192–205.
- Dunn 2003, pp. 238–52.
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