Where was the tape recorder during the Magnificat?


#1

As I read long passages attributed to biblical characters (such as Mary’s Magnificat or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount), I am wondering…

How do we know an actual word-for-word account was taken and these are accurate recordings of the messages? Often, it seems our theological interpretations hinge on specific meanings of words. But…weren’t the gospels written many years after these events had happened, and based on recollections of those who witnessed the events? It is hard to remember the exact words of any conversation we have-especially if we must devote much cognitive energy to comprehending the message…and if they are longer sermons it would be nearly impossible to remember the exact words. Then, to compound the problem many years pass before the gospels are written. So-how can we be confident that these are the actual words spoken during these critical times in our faith?

Thank you


#2

This may be heretical (in which case I’ll recant, of course) but to me it’s not important whether those words are what was actually said; what matters is that I know that they’re the words God actually wanted me to hear.

Jeremy


#3

Not sure about either, esp. the Magnificat, altho maybe Mary told the author what she said in that case. I think there is some speculation that the Sermon on the Mount was a talk Jesus gave more than once with slight variations depending on his audience. That would have helped his followers remember it. Also, it was promised by Jesus that the Holy Spirit would help them remember what they needed to know. My :twocents:


#4

A valid question. While the Gospels were written forty years after Our Lord’s Crucifixion, they record, more or less accurately, the joy Mary felt at her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting, and also the knowledge that she was to bear Our Lord. Were you in her place, emergingfaith, wouldn’t you feel like praising God that way? Something to consider. [SIGN]:twocents: [/SIGN]


#5

Doesn’t Jesus say one of the things the Holy Spirit will do when He comes upon the disciples at Pentecost is help them remember all that Jesus told them?

I’m sorry, I can’t remember chapter and verse, and am currently too pregnant and lazy to waddle across the living room to get my bible- maybe someone else could help out?

Anyway, that’s what I always assumed happened. The Holy Spirit helped people remember what was actually said (St. Luke knew our Lady, and “got the scoop” as it were about the Magnificat) in a way that most of us wouldn’t be able to do.

Cheers,
Cari


#6

First, the protection of the Holy Spirit precludes error,

As to whether they are verbatim and the question of how the Apostles could remember everything-- keep in mind that people of that era were used to oral tradition passed down from generation to generation.

Think of the native Americans passing down their oral history or the Greek epics.

There are specific techniques for remembering such long passages that were taught to the youngest of children in those days that we moderns have not learned. We are too reliant on modern technologies.


#7

Can I ask a dumb question here? But- why are we singling out the Magnificat?

Was there a taperecorder for many of the events that took place in the bible?

I am thinking that maybe the entire OT, and most of the NT would be up for grabs if we thought this way.:shrug:


#8

I think the OP was asking about any long passage in general, and used the Magnificat or the Sermon on the Mount for examples. We all just ran with the examples, but the answers apply to the entire Bible.


#9

I would like to point out that, even in these days of mass media, what you read in print (or online) is often not a word-for-word reproduction of what was actually said. Even if it was recorded on tape. At some point you have to take on faith that whoever is reporting it is being accurate. Unfortunately in the case of newspapers and the Internet, it often isn’t. But we don’t have to let that jade us as to the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

I think the availability of tape recorders, video, etc has made us downplay the value of eye- or ear-witness testimony. But I suspect people (or at least some people) in days gone by did a better job of training their minds and their memories at preserving things accurately. Perhaps we can at least give that amount of credit to the Gospel writers, and those witnesses who informed them (e.g. since Luke was himself not present during the Magnificat).


#10

It is very likely that St. Luke borrowed from a hymn that was composed by early Christians in honor of the Blessed Mother. It resembles closely the hymn of Zechariah in the same Gospel. It’s quite possible the same Christians who were disciples of John the Baptist and became Christians, dedicated a similar hymn to Mary. What’s important to note is that, if true, it means that the earliest of Christians - contemporaries of St. Luke and St. Paul - venerated Mary. And not only was she venerated, but the Holy Spirit approved of this veneration by inspiring St. Luke to include in his Infancy Narrative.

The Bible is not a dictation. The Koran presents itself as word-for-word coming from Allah. The Gospels are historical truth, but given to us through the cooperation of human authors and their proximate limitations. Therefore, even though there wasn’t a tape recorder clicking away at the Visitation (or the Anunciation), what is revealed is Truth, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Her song is emblematic of her incredible, flawless faith, and a declaration that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel.


#11

tm30,
Just focusing on this one point in your response: couldn’t another conclusion be drawn from the Magnificat’s similarities to other scriptural passages? Namely that Mary herself, steeped in scripture, spontaneously composed the Magnificat?

It seems at least as likely as St. Luke doing so, or early Christians doing so. Perhaps even more likely, given Our Mother’s special gifts?

What do you think?
VC

P.S.
1 Samuel 2, where Anna sings the following, is worth a look:

My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory.

There is no Holy One like the LORD;
there in no Rock like our God. "Speak boastfully no longer,
nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.
For an all-knowing God is the LORD,
a God who judges deeds. The bows of the mighty are broken,
while the tottering gird on strength.
The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,
while the hungry batten on spoil.
The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.

The LORD puts to death and gives life;
he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich,
he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust;
from the ash heap he lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles
and make a glorious throne their heritage.
He gives to the vower his vow,
and blesses the sleep of the just.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S,
and he has set the world upon them. He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall perish in the darkness.
For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered.
The Most High in heaven thunders;
The LORD judges the ends of the earth,
Now may he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!


#12

That’s certainly a possibility! But if she hadn’t, it makes it no less Truthful, and makes a much stronger case for Marian veneration if it were not a self-composition.

Luke certainly had access to St. Paul, and perhaps to Mark, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that he had any kind of contact with the Blessed Mother which would supply a recollection of composing the Magnificat spontaneously in front of Elizabeth. John, of course lived under the same roof with her, but his Gospel was focused on the Divinity of Christ and, to a lesser extent, the theological gravity of Mary’s motherhood of the Savior (Cana). Luke’s Gentile audience may have been able to easier piece-together the connection of O.T. prophecy with Christ’s fulfillment of that prophecy by employing these “songs” of at least one group of believers, which were evidently composed in emulation of 1 Samuel 2.

Nonetheless, as you said, it’s entirely possible she composed it herself, but (in my humble opinion) not likely.


#13

Thank you everyone for your thoughts!

To me, it seems that the best answer we have come up with here is that

  1. The Holy Spirit is guiding the recording and reporting of the scriptures
  2. The practice of oral tradition as a means of recording events was much sharper in biblical times.

As a believer, I can accept this. However, as a matter of apologetics…explaining this to someone who might not come from a perspective of faith, I don’t think this will pass the test yet. To say to them “the Holy Spirit was guiding this process” probably won’t quite do it.
And, there are many biblical events in which there were very few witnesses who do not appear to be interested in recording this moment for oral tradition. Again I use the example of the Magnificat, but this could apply to many biblical events. This event was only witnessed by Elizabeth and Mary. I couldn’t recite my own narrative of this length word for word five minutes after uttering it, let alone many years later.

I don’t mean to be difficult on this…believe me I really appreciate the discussion this far. I do believe, though, it is of significant importance. It is very likely we have heard biblical interpretations and teachings hinge on a single word or short phrase.

Thank you.


#14

As a believer, I can accept this. However, as a matter of apologetics…explaining this to someone who might not come from a perspective of faith, I don’t think this will pass the test yet. To say to them “the Holy Spirit was guiding this process” probably won’t quite do it.
And, there are many biblical events in which there were very few witnesses who do not appear to be interested in recording this moment for oral tradition. Again I use the example of the Magnificat, but this could apply to many biblical events. This event was only witnessed by Elizabeth and Mary. I couldn’t recite my own narrative of this length word for word five minutes after uttering it, let alone many years later.

They don’t call faith a “gift” for nothing. I understand how hard it would be for someone who is, say, agnostic, to just accept our belief in the infallibility of Scripture.


#15

What people seem to forget is that the NT writer’s were guided by the Holy Spirit, and what they wrote was approved by those who were either eye witnesses to the events, or students of the eye witnesses.


#16

Three other points to consider on those specific passages:

Luke records the Magnificat. Since he specifically points out he based his account on searching out many witnesses, and since much of what he wrote only Mary would have known, he probably interviewed Mary herself before writing his gospel.

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in its longest form in Matthew. Matthew, as a tax collector for the Romans, probably knew a form of shorthand and could have taken notes on many of Jesus’ sermons.

Even in today’s world, in cultures where books are expensive or literacy is not high, oral transmission is remarkably accurate. In fact, in some oral-history cultures, to become literate is described as to become “stupid” and “lose your memory.”


#17

Remember that the gospel writers were not writing in the genre of modern history, but in the genre of ancient history.

-Rob


#18

Yep, that’s the answer. We don’t know if the gospel writer heard the words from Jesus or Mary (retelling them), but the Holy Spirit guaranteed that they would be passed along correctly.


closed #19

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