Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 12, Anonymous Tradition or Eyewitness Testimony?” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 290-318.
Bauckham, counter to James Dunn, sees the work of he community not as developing and elaborating tradition but as securing traditions as delivered to them (Bauckham 2006, 290). While there is such a thing as collective memory, it is routinely reined in by one or more authoritative individuals who preserve the content of the message. Even Dunn recognizes this as necessary, though he may undervalue its importance (Bauckham 2006, 291). Bauckham evaluates Dunn’s rhetoric pertaining to the role of apostles in preserving the Gospels, and finds Dunn lacking. Dunn considers the role of the eyewitnesses to be unimportant once their testimony has become part of a tradition (Bauckham 2006, 292). For the importance ofthe eyewitness testimony, Bauckham returns to Papias’ account, which is uninterested in community transmission but depdns on tradition with a known transmission history (Bauckham 2006, 294). Inrenaeus describes the authoritative nature of tradition of information in a manner similar to that of Papias. Knowing the chain of transmission is critical (Bauckham 2006, 295).
The importance of the eyewitnesses is further emphasized by the abundance of named witnesses to the events of the Gospel. Bauckham sees this as documentation of the important credible witnesses who could still make authoritative statements during the first century.
With the emphasis on eyewitnesses in mind, Bauckham questions whether the Gospels were actually anonymous, as much 20th century scholarship has suggested (Bauckham 2006, 300). While the Gospels were not identified by statements that named the authors, there are many internal pieces of evidence which could certainly show the personality and identity of the author. Bauckham walks the reader through some ofthe trails of evidence. Bauckham also considers the titles attached to the Gospels by about the year 200 AD. It is important that all of the Gospels are known by their titles and by no other titles from an early time period (Bauckham 2006, 303).
Bauckham asserts very boldly that the tradition used for each Gospel was clearly known and that it could easily be guarded from additions and subtractions (Bauckham 2006, 305). The eyewitnesses would have acted to preserve and guarantee the accuracy of the messages. Bauckham sees this as an important function of 1 Corinthians 15 with its very specific identification of eyewitnesses (Bauckham 2006, 308).
While form criticism posits a community memory which is a creative body, Bauckham continues to see the Gospel accoutns as distinctly stable works based on the literary people who preserved the messages (Bauckham 2006, 311). Bauckham’s strongest contention here is that the Gospels are based on a brief period of oral transmission of events clearly known by the people who reported them (Bauckham 2006, 313).