Anthony Le Donne has a summary about the various scholars engaging memory studies in historical Jesus research, especially helpful for those of us who have not kept up with all the literature on this, and Michael Bird has created the new theme song :) There is much I like about this approach including that it is more interdisciplinary in nature, it is a useful reminder that there is no access to the “historical Jesus” apart from the “Jesus remembered” (cf. James Dunn) by his earliest followers, and it replaces some of the more dubious aspects of form criticism (e.g., one can remove the inauthentic bits based on deviations from “pure forms” or laws on the growth of the tradition or secondary “Hellenistic” layers over primitive “Palestinian” material).
However, is some of the research on memory really so different from the insights of the form critics? Has memory research refuted, or might it even vindicate, some of the following conclusions: 1) memory is both retentive (how Jesus was) and reconstructive (what Jesus came to mean for the community doing the remembering), 2) memory is shaped according to narrative conventions (e.g, a Pronouncement story, a parable, a miracle story), 3) the selection and shaping of memory happens in a specific social context (i.e. the Sitz im Leben or “setting in life”), 4) Mark puts its own stamp on the memories through the selection and arrangement of them in retelling the Jesus story (e.g., linking individual stories together with loose connectors such as “and immediately” or using the sandwich technique to have two independent stories mutually interpet each other), and 5) some of the diversity in the Gospel tradition may be based on different forms of Jesus’ saying (e.g., the Lord’s Prayer) or ways of retelling certain stories but that others may be intentional redactional changes of Mark or other sources by the Gospels of Matthew/Luke/Thomas/Peter, etc. I can accept criticism of the confidence in the “criteria of authenticity” to weed out “authentic” from “inauthentic” material and admit we can’t get behind the earliest memories of Jesus (sage, apocalyptic prophet, Torah teacher, healer/exorcist, messianic claimant), but is it not the task of historians to then try to sort out which memories may be earlier and which were developing ways of thinking about Jesus and might some criteria help that task. So if something is independently multiply attested itpresumably must be older than both sources or if it seems to go “against the grain“ of developing theological views than it may be the survival of an earlier memory not fully suppressed, but if something clearly stands out from the rest of the Jesus’ tradition while supporting a distinctive theme of an evangelist then it may be later or “redactional”)? Anyways, all the recent discussion about memory is fascinating so it would be interesting to open this up to further dialogue in the comments.