Q&A: Use of Oral Traditions

Use of Oral Traditions

What oral traditions did Moses have available to him when he wrote the book of Genesis?

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Answer

Moses had several oral traditions that he used when he wrote the Pentateuch because the Jewish tradition carried their stories orally, and stories that were told from generation to generation, and he grew up in a society that passed those stories orally. So he had that content. Unlike today's society where we depend more on things that are written, they had perfected oral tradition more than we can keep it today. We are perfect in writing so that's why we are captives of things that are written; we have to check. But for them the story was told right and it was checked and rechecked from time to time.

Oral tradition is so protected for cultures that don't have written documents or written storage, because that's the only way that they have to preserve this tradition. So, particularly from African tradition where I come from, there are oral traditions that have been passed from one generation to another, and because there was no alternative of writing it, it was only transmitted orally. There were mechanisms for checking, making sure that it's right and it's protected. That is what happened with the Jews when the Scripture was not written, when God's revelation was not put into writing. It was protected, it was checked, and it was passed over right. Because they did not have the luxury of writing so that they can go back and check. This is the only way they heard it and they had to protect it so it's submitted right.

Answer by Rev. Dr. Cyprian K. Guchienda

Dr. Guchienda serves as Associate Pastor at Highlands Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas Texas.