Archive for ‘2 Thessalonians’

June 29, 2015

The Transmission of the Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)

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Dr. Daniel B. Wallace (Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts) rubs elbows with Pastor Joseph L. Troutman.

On Sunday, June 14, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached on the transmission of the apostolic tradition from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.

The Lord used spoken and written means to transmit his word that man might know him and know how to be saved.

1. Many Things Jesus Did—There was a tremendous amount of information about the words and works of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote his gospel after the fall of Jerusalem. Paul wrote his letters without the four gospels or the rest of the New Testament to consult. John included material in his gospel which adds to that which is found in the earlier synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the rest of the New Testament (See John 20:30-31). Paul had to learn about Jesus from the other apostles and directly from the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23).

2. Hold To the Traditions—In addition to his letters, Paul also engaged in oral tradition. Paul writes to calm the Thessalonians’s fears regarding the return of Christ. Paul refers to the gospel as the traditions which have been believed by us. The traditions of the Roman Catholic Church differ from those to which Paul refers, and so are “traditions of men” (Colossians 2:8).

3. By Spoken Word or Letter—In the first century AD, the gospel was transmitted to the church by both spoken word and by letter. Many things about Jesus were written, and many others were only transmitted orally. These oral traditions were certainly passed on to the second and third centuries. One such story is called “The Pericope of the Adulteress” (or, pericope adulterae; hereafter “PA”) which is found in John 7:53-8:11. Notable Christian scholars such as F.F. Bruce, Bruce Metzger and Daniel Wallace believe the events in this passage actually happened. The Codex Bezae, which dates to the 5th century contains the pericope of the adulteress. Kyle Hughes reports that this pericope may be traced as far back as AD 50. Unbelieving scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, use the PA to argue against the reliability of the New Testament, and his recent books have persuaded many to disbelieve the Bible. What you don’t know about the transmission of the text of the New Testament is being exploited by unbelieving scholars like Ehrman to destroy the faith of the common believer.

Oral tradition is generally considered unreliable, yet true events in 2 Thessalonians were transmitted orally. Skeptical scholars doubt its reliability, and they err on the side of late dates for New Testament writings, and discard them as inauthentic. Appeals to the telephone game are often made to undermine the value of oral transmission, but this is a case of modern understanding being imposed on ancient people. Ken Bailey, in “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition in the Gospels” demonstrates that ancient traditions are transmitted with a high degree of accuracy, and so Western views of ancient Eastern traditions are inaccurate.

If the PA is not original to the gospel of John, then how did it get there? It was told and retold by the apostles between AD 50 through the 70s. The pericope features many similarities to the vocabulary of Luke in his gospel and his book of the Acts of the Apostles. It may be that Luke influenced the wording of this unique passage. Its textual pedigree includes a citation by Papias in his Didaskalia, the Codex Bezae and 900 New Testament manuscripts. These have been the means by which this oral tradition was transmitted to us from the apostolic era. No doubt, God orchestrated the transmission of this passage and its inclusion in the New Testament canon.

Simply put, the pericope of the adulteress in John 7:53-8:11 is just another story of Jesus showing compassion toward a repentant sinner, and his convicting hypocrites for their rejection of him. Be thankful for the means of God’s transmission of the gospel.

Listen to The Transmission of the Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15) at mcopc.org.

For further reading

Where is the Story of the Woman Caught in Adultery really from? (by Daniel B. Wallace)
Informal Controlled Oral Tradition in the Gospels (by Kenneth Bailey)

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