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Oral transmission in the Bible is reliable

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/6/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 381 times Debate No: 60069
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




I argue that oral transmission for the preservation of Scripture is reliable in very accurately preserving orally transmitted stories.

Accurate - careful and without error

First round acceptance


I accept, this will certainly be a interesting debate, as my opponent didn't say the defintion of oral transmission, i'l say one.

oral tradition
The spoken relation and preservation, from one generation to the next, of a people's cultural history and ancestry,
often by a storyteller in narrative form.(1)

Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for defining oral transmission, most people believe that oral transmission is unreliable and that the authors of the Bible could not have accurately preserved the message, leading to corruptions of the text. i will now begin my argument for why oral transmission is reliable.

Scholar Kenneth Bailey, research professor and middle eastern scholar studied oral traditions. He lived in the middle east for around 30 years and came to some fascinating conclusions. You may think that books are needed in order for there to be a survival of ideas. The reality is that you really don't. People have used various oral techniques (which i will explain later) concerning syllables and poetry to orally transmit songs in a community for many years (1). To this day, people still practice oral transmission which can lead scholars to test the reliability of it. According to his study (see link below), he saw a controlled tradition. there would be a gathering of villagers who would tell stories and recite poetry, stories, poems, etc. through the evening. Elders recite and the students listen, but only those who lived among them for a long time could be entrusted with the community's traditions.

He identified several points in oral transmission which apply to the Bible perfectly:

1. Eastern people express ideas through poetry, proverbs, and wise sayings

2. riddles presented with an unresolved problem

3. poetry- a distinct form of verse

4. parable or story

5. Well told accounts of the person or village in the community (2)

There are different levels of flexibility:

1. no flexibility - every poem, proverb, etc. must be repeated word for word, if the story-teller omits just one word, the community corrects him. Ensuring exact memorization

2. some flexibility - Telling of stories and parables. In some, flexibility and/or the order of events could be reversed, but the flow of the story and the conclusion must be the same. The summary and characters cannot be changed. The basic outline must never be changed (3).

3. Total flexibility - Changes in the substance of things, but do not apply to important traditions of the community, rather on irrelevant things (4).

John Hogg (founder of the Egyptian Evangelical community) had a community tell traditions of what he did in that community. He had his daughter write it down and 50 years later, he came to compare it and see if any changes were made. The results were that they were near perfect with no exaggerations found (5).

The Torah uses the same oral transmission process (Deut. 6:7 "Repeat them [God's words] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up" and 6:8 "Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.") .

In respects to the Gospel, a method was used to ensure that Jesus preserved his sayings from a Jewish background (The Torah also follows the same pattern as in Hebrew, repetition is found in Hebrew words such as in Gen. 1) with almost perfect precision.

1. memory - info. was preserved by sayings and text

2. The text was memorized and commentary then follows

3. concise terms were used to help better understand the text

4. Didactic and poetic devices - imagery, allegory, rhyming phrases, and repetition were also vital

5. Repetition - Jewish teachers would repeat their points over and over and have the students do it until they learned it by heart

6. Recitation - texts would be recited and preferably sung

7. Writing was also used

8. Applying the lesson - Application then followed which also brought in practice which better helps memorize the tradition (6)

With this in mind, it becomes very clear that oral transmission is very reliable and that we can fully trust that the Bible is without error and corruption.


1. Bailey, Kenneth. "Informal, Controlled, Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels." Asia Journal of Theology. 5.1 (1991) 40.

2. Bailey 41-42

3. Bailey 42-44

4. Bailey 45

5. Bailey 46-47

6. (Birger Gerhardsson, The Reliability of the Gospel Traditon, p.9-14).


TheDebateMaster1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Waiting for my opponent

Vote for me, FF


TheDebateMaster1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


I have fulfilled my burden of proof


TheDebateMaster1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


I win

Vote for me


TheDebateMaster1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
If I could vote here I would, as Con Forfeited.
But, it may end up a tie, judging by how many ppl are voting on DDO these days.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Lol well he's not responding either
Posted by beavis884 2 years ago
You haven't won, pro-you bloviated your opponent to death.Also, mad footnotes aren't quite so impressive if they all cite the same source-barely better than cut-and-paste,no?
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
Oral transmission of Herpes is reliable poor kiddies getting herpes of nanna.
I studied and worked as a Historian so I know what can be reliably transmitted by Rote.

I'm certain TDM knows as well.

Though if one reads the Gospels, 4 different stories of Jesus exist, a different account for each Gospel. Which makes one wonder, which Gospel is accurate?????
Or maybe none of them are.
Posted by beavis884 2 years ago
How is pro's position even possibly provable? Do Aesop's Fables now count as historical records, as well?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by SPENCERJOYAGE14 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: FF