The Evangelical And “Traditionsgeschichte” -- By: Grant R. Osborne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:2 (Jun 1978)
Article: The Evangelical And “Traditionsgeschichte”
Author: Grant R. Osborne


The Evangelical And “Traditionsgeschichte”

Grant R. Osborne*

Traditionsgeschichte is one of two important stepchildren of form criticism, the other being Redaktionsgeschichte. The two complement each other in developing the form-critical method, since the first deals with the development of the individual gospel tradition and the second with the use of that tradition in the Tendenz of the gospel itself. The German word has been variously translated as “tradition history”1 and “the history of the transmission of the traditions.”2 While these are certainly more correct, we will continue to use the more familiar translation, “tradition criticism,” since we are primarily concerned with its use as a critical tool.

The method itself seeks to determine the growth of a particular concept or tradition within the history of the early Church. As such it may study the evolution of the term “Lord” from the time of Christ to that of the early Church or it may examine the relationship between the Matthean and Lucan forms of the beatitudes. We may distinguish a positive and a negative pole within this approach. Positively, it helps to clarify the meaning of a concept or the use of a tradition at each stage of its development. With regard to “Lord” it notes the use of the term within Luke, where editorial passages (from the Sitz im Leben of Luke’s own time) use it in a titular sense (of cosmic lordship) and dialogue passages (from the Sitz im Leben of Jesus’ earthly ministry) use it as a term of respect (=“sir”).3 Negatively, it makes judgments on the authenticity of gospel pericopae. For example, it tries to determine how far back the particular tradition goes. Does the exalted sense of “Lord” stem from the immediate post-Easter Palestinian Church (as Moule argues) or does it stem from the later hellenistic Jewish Church (as Hahn and Fuller argue4 )? In another vein, is the Lucan story of the miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1–11) a different episode from John 21:1–14, as evangelical scholars assert, or is it a post-resur-

*Grant Osborne is assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. The present article is included here by permission of The New Testament Student 5 (1978), edited by John H. Skilton.

rection wundergeschichtliche Fabel read back into the life of Jesus?...

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