Memory, Orality, and the Fourth Gospel: Three Dead-Ends in Historical Jesus Research

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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Three recent approaches to historical Jesus studies are assessed in this article. First, the use of memory studies as a means of validating the historical authenticity of Gospel traditions. Secondly, claims that Gospel traditions should be understood as primarily reaching the evangelists orally, and that this process provides greater confidence in the historicity of such traditions. Thirdly, the Fourth Gospel is seen in some quarters as an important source in historical Jesus research based upon new paradigms and radical redefinitions of historicity. Contrary to such claims, here it is argued that for a series of different reasons that none of these methods offers any significant advance in accessing the ‘historical Jesus’, as that term is usually understood. This is not to say that the methods are without value. Rather, it is the over-confident application of such approaches to the ‘historical Jesus question’ that is critiqued. This is especially the case when it is claimed that they provide a key methodological break-through, enabling reclamation of more Gospel traditions as being securely founded in the ministry of the historical Jesus.

Memory, Orality, and the Fourth Gospel: Three Dead-Ends in Historical Jesus Research

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

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References

4)

R. BultmannJesus and the Word (London: Charles Scribner’s Sons1934) pp. 14-15.

5)

 See in particular S. GreenblattRenaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1980); and H.A. Veeser (ed.) The New Historicism (London: Routledge 1989).

7)

M. BockmuehlSeeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic2006) p. 175.

8)

R. BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans2006).

9)

BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses pp. 330-35.

10)

BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses pp. 341-46.

11)

BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 346.

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J.C.S. Redman‘How Accurate are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research’JBL 129 (2010): 177-97.

14)

Redman‘How Accurate are Eyewitnesses?’ p. 178.

15)

Redman‘How Accurate are Eyewitnesses?’ p. 178.

17)

Redman‘How Accurate are Eyewitnesses?’ p. 178.

19)

BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 5.

20)

M. HalbwachsOn Collective Memory (ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser; Chicago: University of Chicago Press1992).

21)

 See B. Schwartz‘Collective Memory and Social Change: The Democratization of George Washington’American Sociology Review 56 (1992): 221-36; M. Schudson Watergate in American Memory: How We Remember Forget and Reconstruct the Past (New York: Basic Books 1992).

23)

Apfelbaum‘Halbwachs and the Social Properties of Memories’ pp. 91-92.

26)

 For instance see G. StreckerThe Johannine Letters (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress1996) pp. 61-77; R.E. Brown The Johannine Epistles (AB 30; New York: Doubleday 1982) pp. 329-77.

27)

BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 342.

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BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses pp. 352-53.

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BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 352.

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BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 352.

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BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 352.

32)

D.C. AllisonConstructing Jesus: Memory Imagination and History (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic2010) p. 8.

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AllisonConstructing Jesus p. 435.

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AllisonConstructing Jesus p. 22.

35)

AllisonConstructing Jesus p. 22.

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J.D.G. Dunn‘Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition’NTS 49 (2003): 139-75.

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Dunn‘Altering the Default Setting’ p. 155.

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Dunn‘Altering the Default Setting’ p. 169.

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Dunn‘Altering the Default Setting’ p. 143.

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DunnJesus Remembered pp. 73-78.

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M. Parry‘Whole Formulaic Verses in Greek and Southslavic Heroic Song’Transactions of the American Philological Association 64 (1933) pp. 179-97.

45)

 See in particular A. LordThe Singer of Tales (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press1960).

46)

J. Griffin (ed.)Illiad Book Nine (Oxford: Clarendon Press1995) esp. pp. 32-35. Griffin does not reject the theory of oral composition of the Homeric epics but he does re-envision the mechanisms of oral composition. Although his more nuanced perspectives have begun to predominate in Homeric scholarship they have not had an impact on the field of New Testament studies. Those who advocate orality as the means for understanding the transmission of Gospel traditions remain locked into the Parry–Lord paradigm. See also the earlier preliminary comments of A. Hoekstra Homeric Modifications of Formulaic Prototypes (Amsterdam: North Holland 1965).

48)

T. MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q (WUNT, 2.195; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2005) pp. 7-12 192-286.

49)

T. Rosché‘The Words of Jesus and the Future of the Q Hypothesis’JBL 79 (1960): 210-20here 220.

50)

MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency p. 203 (original emphasis).

51)

R. MorgenthalerStatistische Synopse (Zurich: Gotthelf-Verlag1971).

52)

MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency p. 203 (original emphasis).

53)

MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency p. 204 (original emphasis).

54)

MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency p. 204.

55)

MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency pp. 204-78.

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MournetOral Tradition and Literary Dependency pp. 282-83.

58)

R.K. McIver and M. Carroll‘Experiments to Develop Criteria for Determining the Existence of Written Sources, and their Potential Implications for the Synoptic Problem’JBL 121 (2002): 667-87.

59)

McIver and Carroll‘Experiments to Develop Criteria’ pp. 668-73.

61)

 See B. GerhardssonMemory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells1961) esp. pp. 105 157-63.

63)

P.N. AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered (LNTS, 321; London: T&T Clark2006).

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AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus p. 125.

66)

AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus p. 125.

67)

AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus p. 191.

69)

AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus p. 192 (original emphasis).

70)

AndersonThe Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus pp. 128-29.

73)

Thatcher‘Aspects of Historicity in the Fourth Gospel’ p. 3.

91)

C.L. BlombergThe Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel (Leicester: Apollos2001).

92)

BlombergHistorical Reliability of John’s Gospel p. 49.

93)

BlombergHistorical Reliability of John’s Gospel p. 64.

94)

BlombergHistorical Reliability of John’s Gospel p. 88.

96)

BlombergHistorical Reliability of John’s Gospel pp. 200-201.

99)

DunnJesus Remembered pp. 73-78; and Mournet Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency pp. 54-99.

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