Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Jesus Didn't Say That! Or Did He?

In today's Mass readings (June 8, 2011), Paul quotes Jesus saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  The funny thing is, Jesus is not reported to have said such a thing in the Gospels.  Does this mean Paul doesn't know what he is talking about or that Jesus didn't really say it?  Not at all.  First one should remember John 21:25 which reads, "There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written."  So it should be no surprise that everything Christ did and said are not in Sacred Scripture.

Yet, where does Paul get his information?  There are several possibilities:
1.  Directly from Jesus Himself when Christ appeared to Paul.
2.  From Word of Mouth from other Christians.
3.  The Gospels.

We know that the Gospels as a whole were not fully formed when Paul is writing, so we can rule out the Gospels.  It is possible that Christ taught it directly to Paul; however, if the records of Acts is accurate in Paul's conversion in recording all that Christ said to Paul then option one can be ruled out also.  Therefore, the only plausible option is that Paul received the saying of Christ from one of Christ's followers.  After all, he did meet with the Apostles in Jerusalem. 

So what does this mean?  Simply that Paul is depending upon oral tradition to teach others what Christ did and said.  In other words,  Paul's teachings is based not upon a book, but the Traditions of Christ passed down from Christ to His Apostles and to His followers.  Hopefully this calls to mind Acts 2:42 in which it is recorded "They [the early Christians] devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers."

Yet, later on in Paul's ministry, he tells his readers in 2 Thes. 2:15 to "stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours."  Aware that teachings are passed down by letter, Paul still adheres to the importance of oral tradition.  If letters were the only source of teachings and tradition, Paul would have never encouraged his readers to adhere to oral tradition.  Why the emphasis on oral tradition?  Because that is how he was taught and learned about Christ.  To discredit oral tradition would be to discredit his own teachings and therefore all of Christianity as even the apostles taught by means of oral tradition.  Oral tradition is how all early Christians learned about Christ from the Beginning.  If oral tradition was done away with then one could never learn of Christ as what latter flowers from the oral traditions are not only the epistles but also the entirety of the New Testament.  In other words, the New Testament is the written portion of Sacred Oral Tradition.

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