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Transmission of the Teaching

Transmission of the Teaching


This lesson discusses in general terms the ways in which religious traditions perpetuate and define themselves via sacred texts, oral traditions, ritual, liturgy, preaching, and works.

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Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this video on the transmission of the teaching. In order to keep itself going through time, religion needs to be able to spread itself. And in this video, we're going to be looking at some of the various ways for doing that.

So, a religion can spread itself through a number of different ways, through preaching, through evangelism, through scripture. We should note here that scripture itself is already a means of transmitting the teaching. In fact, that's why most of the scriptures in the various work religions were written in the first place. Also liturgy, in those churches that have a more liturgical nature or in non-Christian liturgies.

Next, the various different oral traditions, which we'll be taking a look at in just one minute, and performing good works for the community, and celebrating holidays and festivals. Just think about it. If you have a giant festival that takes up half of the town, well, that's naturally going to expose a lot of people toward your religion. Probably the best example is India, where the festivals are gigantic and take place for several weeks throughout the year.

Moving on to oral traditions, we can name a few prominent oral traditions throughout the world. First of all, the guru-disciple tradition in Hinduism, which is still very much a part of the Hindu religion, where the guru passes on the teachings to the disciple and so forth. Next, in various different indigenous traditions throughout the world, are the primal religions. Oral traditions are still the primary means of transmitting the belief system from one generation to the next.

As we said before, the Gospels themselves were originally oral traditions before they were written down. And we could say the same thing of many scriptures throughout the world. The Vedas in Hinduism, for example, were transmitted orally before they were ever written down. It just became too much for people to remember, so they commit them to writing.

So sacred texts are an important way of transmitting the teaching. I've just listed a few sacred texts from around the world, the Qur'an, the Tanakh, the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, the Dhammapada, the Guru Granth Sahib. No matter what tradition you belong to, there's probably some kind of scripture that helps orient you in your life, that helps connect you to your faith tradition, and no matter how authoritative you consider that text to be, you still consider it to be fairly important. In addition to this sort of primary layer of scripture, there could be commentaries on those scripture, also other accounts like saints lives that may be not be quite considered canonical scriptures, but it can be just as important as this first layer of text.

Moving on a little bit to the family, these are some statistics from the Pew religious forum, the Pew Religious Landscape project. 28% of US adults have left the religion of their birth. And the number goes up if you start to include changing from one Protestant denomination to another. So we might be tempted to think that maybe the family just doesn't matter very much, but if we think that way, we'll be ignoring the fact of the family is still important to what many people do in their religious lives.

Many people do to stay in the religion of their birth. They are saying meal-time prayers, they're attending religious services together, and in that way, they are still transmitting their religion from one generation to the next. We should also say something about preaching. Preaching encourages those who already believe in addition to being a form of evangelism. And it's important to note that these two aims are certainly related, because if you have believers who are stronger in their belief, that's naturally going to lead towards a larger transmission of the teaching to non-believers and to the next generation of believers.

OK, so, but what about evangelism? Evangelism is pretty controversial these days, and a lot of people don't really appreciate being evangelized. By and large, Islam and Christianity take a more positive view of evangelism. And, by and large, Judaism and Hinduism take a less positive view of evangelism, although there's exceptions to almost anything that we might say.

In the previous part where we were talking about preaching, preaching did play an important role in the spread of Buddhism, in a pretty peaceful spread of Buddhism throughout Asia that happened without warfare. So there's always exceptions to anything that we might say. There are some Jews who do proselytize, like the Lubavitch Jews that are pretty big on conversion.

Some Hindu groups proselytize. You probably have heard about the Hare Krishnas, which is a sect of Vaishnava Hinduism that definitely did evangelize. Now that was a couple of decades ago. Maybe they don't evangelize quite like they used to in airports and so forth, but they did spread largely through efforts at evangelism.

Of course the term evangelism is a Christian word, so maybe the word proselytism, which just means trying to convince people to join your faith, is a better one for non-Christian belief systems. So that's a little bit about the transmission of the teaching. Now we'll just move to a quick recap.

Thanks for watching this tutorial on the transmission of the teaching. We said that religious groups use a number of different means to spread that religion to the next generation and to non believers, including all sorts of methods like celebrating festivals, reading sacred scripture, preaching, evangelizing, festivals, and so forth. We also said that sacred and other central texts are a way of passing on the teachings.

The family plays an important role in passing on their religion. And evangelism is accepted in some religions, but not in others. So, Christianity and Islam generally look favorably upon evangelism, while Judaism and Hinduism do not.

You have on your screen all of the vocabulary terms for this lesson. We've already mentioned evangelism. I mentioned the term liturgy during the lesson, which means the manner in which a particular religious group conducts public worship. Didactic refers to instructional methods, things that are intended to educate.

We mentioned proselytism. We mentioned oral tradition and scripture and preaching. So I hope you got a lot of this lesson, and I hope you will watch more tutorials in the future.

Terms to Know

Instructional, intended to educate.


The attempt, usually through persuasive speech or writing, to convert non-believers to one's own religion--typical of most sects within Christianity.


The manner in which a particular religious group conducts public worship.

Oral Tradition

The practice of teaching important religious or other doctrine verbally, without writing them down.


The act of transmitting moral or other teachings to those already within the same religious group--contrast with evangelism.


The attempt by one or more members of any religious group to persuade others to become members of that group.


Any text held in reverence by any religious group.