A new article by Ronald Hendel in The Bible and Interpretation addresses the subject of cultural memory in a way that is relevant to minimalists, mythicists and other modernists. The idea that we are either going to precisely reconstruct the past, or conversely decisively disprove traditional views about it, without room for doubt or error, reflect the approach of a bygone era. Here’s a sample to whet your appetite:
To state the point more directly in relation to mythicism: The recognition that traditional tools and methods of historical criticism do not provide us with certainty does not demonstrate that the mythicists are right, but that they are every bit as wrong-headed as the fundamentalists on the opposite end of the spectrum. Recent scholarship has not given victory to mythicism or minimalism and defeated maximalism. It has shown rather than we need more nuanced categories which eschew both an all-or-nothing mentality and the idea that we can neatly distinguish in our sources between what is clearly historical truth and what is clearly fiction.
The minimalist/maximalist dichotomy, as far as I understand it, becomes obsolete in light of the concept of cultural memory. The truth (if I may use this word in its everyday sense) is more complicated than this dichotomy allows. The pursuit of cultural memory in biblical studies has the potential to complicate and reconfigure many dubious dichotomies in our field, including maximalism/minimalism, history/fiction, diachronic/synchronic, and perhaps even postmodern/modern.
Take a look at Hendel’s article and then come back and discuss it here, if you are so inclined!