Re: how reliable is the oral tradition ?

Jim Jewett (
30 Nov 1994 02:09:16 GMT

In article <3bdqmj$>,
Michael K Lerch <> wrote:
>Rod Hagen ( wrote:

>: I'm always a bit worried about those looking for "primal knowledge" on the
>: one hand or "reliability" on the other.

>Agreed. If a diachronic record is available, one might ask why the oral
>tradition has changed, rather than discount it because it has changed.

If your goal is an understanding of myths, then certainly.

If your goal is an understanding of the history of a neighboring
people, and you want to know whether to count these "nearby" myths as
corroborating evidence, then maybe not.

If your goal is to find The Truth (e.g., explain the Biblical flood,
or locate the first Indo-Europeans...) then certainly not. For these
you want to know what _did_ happen, rather than what people felt (or
feel) about it. If the stories change, then they aren't reliable
evidence, and it doesn't really matter why. (Exception: if there
were alternative stories, and one gained more credence than it had had
before ... but when you're looking that closely, nothing we can
say here in general will override the particulars.)

_________ Have a favorite group or mailing list? Describe it to
jJ | Take only memories.
\__/ Leave not even footprints.