Sunday, July 10, 2005

New SBL Publication and Oral Tradition

Of all the new SBL publications the one that interests me the most is:

Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity

Edited by Alan Kirk and Tom Thatcher

Drawing on the methods of social and cultural memory theory, this volume both introduces memory theory to biblical scholars and restores the category “memory” to a preeminent position in research on Christian origins. In the process, it challenges current approaches to research problems in Christian origins, such as the history of the Gospel traditions, the birth of early Christian literature, ritual and ethics, and the historical Jesus. The essays, taken in aggregate, not only outline a comprehensive research agenda for examining the beginnings of Christianity and its literature but also propose a fundamentally revised model for the phenomenology of early Christian oral tradition, assess the impact of memory theory upon historical Jesus research, establish connections between memory dynamics and the appearance of written Gospels, and assess the relationship of early Christian commemorative activities with the cultural memory of ancient Judaism.

I think Kenneth Bailey and James Dunn have reinvigorated interest in theories of oral tradition and corporate memory in the transmission and development of traditions in early Christianity. Dunn's theory of Jesus in the memory of the early church is really building on the work of N.A. Dahl. Dunn's work has met with ambivalent response in recent issues of JSNT 26 (2004) and ExpT 116 (2004). Ted Weeden is about to deliver some serious criticisms to Bailey at the next SBL conference in Philly. Throw into the mix Werner Kelber and his theory of different hermeneutics for oral and written traditions and it makes an interesting realm of scholarship. I think it is slowly being recognized that Gerhardsson and Bultmann are not the only two games in town in terms of transmission of the Jesus tradition.

I wonder if consideration will be given to the late Paul Ricoeur's, Memory, history, forgetting (trans. K. Blamey et. al.; Chicago: Chicago Uni Press, 2004). Might well be of relevance!

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