Formation of the Gospels – Catechesis


The apostolic preaching was directed to those who had heard nothing about salvation in Christ. It was aimed at eliciting the response of faith from the listeners. Those who responded with faith were given a deeper understanding of the Christ-event through teaching (didache) or catechesis. In instructing the new converts the disciples made use of Jesus’ own teaching, his words and deeds, and the events connected with his life. It is important to remember that at the time no modern communication media were available to the disciples and preachers. There was no recorded or written account of Jesus’ teaching and no reporter had covered or camera had captured the activities of Jesus. The disciples had to call to mind what Jesus said and did, and pass it on to others by words of mouth. This is what is called Oral Tradition. In this process the re-telling of the exact words of Jesus or a photographic reproduction of his deeds was not possible nor was it attempted. The focus was not so much on accuracy and exactness, or on the details of place and time; as on the person of Jesus, the meaning of his words, and the significance of his deeds. What was, therefore, attempted in the oral tradition was to faithfully transmit the message of Jesus and interpret its significance for the benefit of the new converts and for their instruction.

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