Jesus, Eyewitnesses, and Memory

Jesus, Eyewitnesses, and Memory February 28, 2012

I am currently working on a book called The Gospels of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (forthcoming with Eerdmans in 2013). So I’m reading a stack of books on the formation of the Jesus tradition, social memory, eyewitnesses, orality, and so forth. I’ve already written a bit on these topics in previous articles in BBR and WTJ back in the mid naughties. But now I’m exploring them anew and revising stuff in light of the avalanche of studies on the Jesus tradition.

Along the way, I’ve reading, of course, Dale C. Allison’s Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. There is a very good review that has just come out in Themelios by Michael J. Thate.

As I argued in my BBR piece, Allison confirms the observation that a major impetus towards the preservation and integrity of the Jesus tradition was that: (1) Many Jesus’ sayings were short, sharp, and memorable; (2) Jesus was itinerant and broadcast his message by travelling around which meant a repetition of his sermons and speeches; and (3) Jesus probably enlisted people to spread is message and teachings during his own life time (pp. 24-25).

Also the best quote of the book has to be: “our choice is not between an apocalyptic Jesus and some other Jesus; it is between an apocalyptic Jesus and no Jesus at all” (pp. 46-47). So the last surviving profs of the Jesus Seminar need to be told to turn the light off before they exist the building!

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