A couple of questions about the Bible (request)

My last post got me thinking about the Bible, and there are a couple of questions I wanted to shoot out toward my readers (both of you!) regarding a few issues. I'm asking these questions because I seriously don't know and I'm looking to find out what is generally accepted as true on these matters. I've done my share of homework but I'm having a hard time coming up with anything solid. Anywho:

1. Evidence for a meticulous oral tradition prior to the writing of the gospels

Christian apologists are always saying that you can trust four decades of hearsay because the gospel stories were passed down according to a very meticulous oral tradition. The thing is, I've never been able to find any direct evidence that this happened. None of the gospels themselves (canonical or otherwise) claim to have been passed on in this way, so I'm not entirely sure where the claim comes from or how it's supposed to be substantiated.

The only such "oral tradition" I can find that might relate is an old Rabbinic oral tradition that relates to the proper interpretation of the Torah (Wiki article here), but that clearly has nothing to do with the gospels. Otherwise, I can't find a lick of anything about oral traditions, particularly anything that would cross from Aramaic to Greek.

2. Evidence that the Greeks didn't make it all up

I'm not one to dismiss a historical Jesus; I think it's plausible, though not provable, that there once lived an apocalyptic Rabbi named Yeshua (or something of that nature) who had a small but devoted following, and perhaps he was even arrested and executed. But what's not clear to me is how the story made its way to the Greeks. It seems plausible (though of course not provable either) that the Greeks may have heard the story (there's that hearsay again) and then they are the ones who, through retelling the story, slowly added more and more mystical elements. Much of the epistles revolved around bringing a very Greek-like god to Jewish people, which seems fairly telling – since the witnesses were supposed to be primarily Aramaic-speaking, shouldn't they be the ones bringing the story to the Greeks? It's an unusual mishmash of cultures to say the least, but... how do we know that the Greeks weren't the ones who made the whole thing up? 

Update: Another one....

3. How do we know when the gospels were written?

I've seen just about everyone – believers and skeptics alike – talk about the dating of the canonical gospels and reference the same commonly accepted dates. The dates estimated for them are all very broad, and the only info I've been able to find about how they were dated makes vague references to "early church scholarship". Well, okay... how did those early church scholars arrive at their conclusions? More importantly, what independent evidence can corroborate the dates they estimated?

Very interesting take on it (found through some Googling) here.


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