Zeba Crook argues that there is an emerging consensus that the Gospels are reliable historical narratives by those to have applied ‘memory’ theories to historical Jesus research. Crook argues that this emerging consensus betrays a selective reading of research done on ‘memory distortion’ in interdisciplinary study. This essay demonstrates that Crook misunderstands and misrepresents social memory theory both in and outside Jesus studies. A better understanding would have properly represented the spectrum from theoretical ‘presentism’ to ‘continuitism’ in memory applications/adaptations.
This essay challenges the standard paradigm for the intellectual history of ‘Jesus Quests’ popularized by Albert Schweitzer and mimicked by almost every survey since. I argue that historical reconstruction begins at least with Augustine (perhaps sooner) and with an eye to Jewish-Christian relations. By analyzing key moments in the intellectual history of Jesus studies, I argue that a common thread has been Jewish-Christian relations. This thread suggests that an important (perhaps seminal) impetus for study of the historical Jesus before the Enlightenment and through to the modern period has been largely neglected by the standard ‘Jesus Quests’ paradigm.
In response to the essays by Bauckham, Byrskog, Schröter, and Zimmermann concerning “memory”, Le Donne summarizes and critiques four different applications of mnemonic studies to the Jesus tradition. The author notes the different approaches to sociology relative to memory and argues that both autobiographical memory and collective memory fall under the wider category of social memory. Moreover, contra Bauckham social memory is helpful avenue of study for historical Jesus research once properly understood. Contra Schröter, he argues that the study of the social components of autobiographical memory ought to play a part in scholarship concerning the Gospels. He also challenges the false dichotomy between the “remembered Jesus” and the “historical Jesus” as posed by Zimmermann.
This article surveys a cultural phenomenon in American popular media that complicates how the historical Jesus is received: fake news. It suggests that fake Jesus news relates to the problems we face in Donald Trump-related political discourse. Moreover, the present political climate will make it even more difficult for professional historians to be heard and trusted by the general public.