A Follow-Up on my Post about Social Memory and Form Criticism

My thanks to Anthony le Donne, and Chris Keith in the comments, for the response to some of my questions about the differences between social memory and form criticism (Larry Hurtado also notes their typology of memory studies).  It has definitely encouraged me to pick up a copy of Anthony Le Donne’s The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology and the Son of David and Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? For my part, while I am not convinced by Richard Bauckham that the Gospels reflect direct eyewitness testimony and I still find value in the form critical legacy (e.g., some Jesus stories circulated independently, were orally retold according to certain narrative conventions, utilized in Christian preaching/worship/evangelism/debates, and some diversity of Gospel traditions can be explained by different interpretations of Jesus), I also think that the presence of some eyewitnesses in the first generation and the importance of memorization in oral cultures (cf. mneumonic devices in the teaching of Jesus to aid memory) and the possible use of some written sources (e.g., the use of notebooks; Maurice Casey on Aramaic sources?) served as a kind of check against the radical creativity envisioned by some form critics.   But if the various studies of social memory (Le Donne makes a good point that it is not one monolithic approach) can offer a more methodologically rigorous, interdisciplinary approach and provide a better explanation for the unity and diversity that we see in the Gospel tradition, than I am all for them.  The approach of Dunn or Alison to look for the “characteristic Jesus” or the gist of how he is represented in the early sources as a whole may also be a better approach than an individual scholar subjectively creating a list of authentic sayings of Jesus versus those of the early church or the evangelists, at least for coming up with a general reconstruction of the historical Jesus as a sage or healer or apocalyptic prophet or messianic figure, but I wonder if one wants to get into further specifics if some criteria is still necessary to sift between earlier and later social memories.  For just one example, it seems to me that Mark 11:15-17, 14:57-59, John 2:15-71, Acts 6:13-14 and Thomas 71 all reflect different interpretations of the significance of Jesus’ judgment on the Temple.  Granted, there is no uninterpreted history and how the event (the gist is that Jesus seems to have threatened the Temple) is remembered and interpreted by friend or foe is influenced by a variety of social factors, but is there still a role for some of the criteria in sorting out the earlier from the later interpretations?

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