Young, Stephen E. "Chapter One: Orality and the Study of Early Christianity." Jesus Tradition in the Apostolic Fathers. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011, 1-35.
Young notes, and provides extensive bibliographical support for, patterns of scholarship pertaining to early Christianity, in which orality in and of itself, orality leading to literary form criticism, and a synthesis of orality and literary methods lead to the various writings we now possess (Young 2011, 1-3). At issue is the view, which Young would reject, that a literary mindset would serve as the default for authors in late antiquity. Rather, Young takes the best methods of interpretation to stem from a primarily oral mindset (Young 2011, 4).
A shift in New Testament interpretation based on our understanding of orality and literacy further warrants reconsideration of the mindset which preserved sayings of Jesus, as well as other matters of early Christian interest. Young continues with copious bibliographic footnotes pertaining to canonical and non-canonical literature (Young 2011, 6-8). Though much study has been done, Young considers there to be less work published relating to the sayings of Jesus as they appear in the Apostolic Fathers. He argues that, in the patristic works prior to 2 Clement, citations of Jesus tradition are based not on canonical sources but on sources common to both the canonical authors and the patristic authors (Young 2011, 9).
Though studies of orality as an influence on a work preserved in writing have necessary shortcomings, Young does consider that many of the challenges can be overcome when treated with care. One of the issues at hand is the method of inquiry. Oral tradition studies are nothing new. However, the decision to move away from oral studies leading to form criticism is a relatively recent idea (Young 2011, 11). Certain tenets of form criticism have been shown to be inconsistent with development of oral narratives. Young considers this to serve as a warning against too ready an acceptance of a form critical approach to oral material (Young 2011, 13). For his reason, Young seeks to develop a paradigm for study of Jesus traditions which interprets the oral process correctly (Young 2011, 14).
Youn describes in some detail the work of Gerhardsson, interpreting much of the early Christian development in terms of rabbinic practice (Young 2011, 15-16). While Gerhardsson raises some good points, Young finds his arguments weak in three areas. It is difficult to identify any hints at an apostolic body such as a collegium of rabbis who developed and guarded Christian teaching (Young 2011, 18-19). Second, though the Gospels are full of memorable actions and sayings, there is no evidence that, as Gerhardsson contends, Jesus made his disciples memorize his statements in detail (Young 2011, 19). Finally, Young considers the sophisticated nature of the material underlying the written texts to have required a greater level of verbal sophistication than Gerhardsson assigns to the disciples. The features of the narrative are, in Young's estimation, too literary in their structure to have been developed and preserved orally (Young 2011, 22).
Young's choice of parameters - the specific Jesus traditions and the limitation of the apostolic fathers - was made so as to reach into a time period when the New Testament writings were not necessarily recognized as the authoritative standard which would exclusively identify what Jesus said and did (Young 2011, 25). The materials he chooses are explicitly referred to by the Fathers as statements of Jesus.
Young finally specifies that his study is concerned with "oral Jesus tradition" (Young 2011, 3). He is careful to detail that the material comes from spoken communication with its soulrce in Jesus' words and deeds, and preserved through oral repetition.