Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus

Archive for the ‘Social Memory Criticism’ Category

September 1st, 2014 by Joel Watts

science approaches the way memory changes

Jesus in the Gospels

Jesus in the Gospels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Memory research is interesting exactly because of the way we remember things – even the way we remember the remembrances of the Gospels. I believe that such science can help us even in understanding how the Gospels shaped the early memory of Jesus and were themselves shaped by the early memory of Jesus.

Some aspects of the memory can endure a long time, while others are more fickle. “The memory of a romantic first meal out with a partner may take on a different mood when the relationship falters,” said Tomonori Takeuchi and Richard Morris at the University of Edinburgh, in an article accompanying the study. “In these cases, memory of the place remains accurate, but the positive associations with that place are lost.”

In short, I believe the monumental act of the written Gospel forever changed the historical memory of Jesus, even among those who may have actually known him (although by this time, it would have been very few).

August 8th, 2014 by Milton Almeida

Remembering The Past may be good therapy!

I struggled to publish this here, but this is from the 90’s when I used to be a TV translator, lip-synchronizer  and dubber. The face is familiar, but ONLY THE VOICE is mine! It was viewed and heard by circa 100 million people around the world, 40 million in Brazil alone. Today is still viewed in Portuguese speaking countries still with my voice!

Of course, today, because I am a Calvinist (since the late 90’s) I decided this no longer to be appropriate to me for my own financial and professional loss. If you can stand it, wait until he starts weeping and see “how good” I really was at it!!!! Therapy for me, SICKNESS for you… perhaps!


November 20th, 2013 by Joel Watts

So… we are susceptible to false memories? But… but… the Gospels?

In a unique memory-distortion study with people with extraordinary memory ability, individuals with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) were as susceptible as controls to false memory. The findings suggest that HSAM individuals reconstruct their memories using associative grouping, as demonstrated by a word-list task, and by incorporating postevent information, as shown in misinformation tasks. The findings also suggest that the reconstructive memory mechanisms that produce memory distortions are basic and widespread in humans, and it may be unlikely that anyone is immune. The assumption that no one is immune from false memories has important implications in the legal and clinical psychology fields, where contamination of memory has had particularly important consequences in the past.

via False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals.

Tucking this away for later.

April 2nd, 2013 by Joel Watts

Can Pope Francis help us in our understanding of the Historical Jesus?

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is going to be a relatively short post, as all I really want to do is to start a conversation…and avoid doing work on my dissertation.

We know that the name genesis behind the Pope’s selection is St. Francis of Assisi. While the Pope was, by all accounts, a humble person before his elevation, he is still very much destroying the culture of entrenched power, following Francis’ example. We expect more, I think, from this pope.

Often times, we hear the argument — and by argument, I am quite generous — that Jesus is a mythical person because of his name. This is just one of the many arguments. I mean, Joshua was the savior of Israel, the leader, the vindicator. We see the collusion of these names in the Epistle to the Hebrews, something that messed up the KJV translators. So, if one was creating a literary character, why not choose a name that would be noticeable and come not only with emotional attachements but so too literary expectations.

When the newly-elected Pope chose the name of Francis, he did so knowing full well the expectations of the name from the faithful. Likewise, he is working to fulfill those expectations. But, and this is where it gets a bit grounded. Names do matter. In several recent studies, the names we are given are shown to influence our personality, even our jobs. Simply, it is nominative determinism. It is not a new theory, nor one likely to go away. We saw this somewhat in the African-American community the naming of children after Martin Luther King, or people in the Reconstruction South naming their children after General Robert E. Lee. Or why I name my youngest after Sophia. When I look my son, named after my grandfather, I want him to be that Landon. We desire them to grow into their names, don’t we?

I cannot help but to watch Pope Francis as he moves further into acting the part of a pontiff from Assisi and think about the psychology of naming your child Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus when the people of Israel were enslaved. The cognitive development would be something to watch, especially if from an early age, Jesus heard about himself in these stories of Scripture, of a Joshua who saved his people — of a Yeshua (re)conquered Israel and removed from the land the pagan malefactors.

Okay, back to work.

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February 26th, 2013 by Joel Watts

In which I discover something about Cognitive Memory Development that applies to the Gospels

I have a pre-pub copy of this book via Amazon Vine. As I set down to read this, I found two things rather quickly I believe will aid a discussion on memory and the Historical Jesus.

The author, Charles Fernyhough, writes,

This view of memories as physical things is guaranteed to mislead. The truth is that autobiographical memories are not possessions that you either have or do not have. They are mental constructions, created in the present moment, according to the demands of the present. (p5 – please note that the pages numbers are likely to change in final print form)


I want to persuade you that when you have a memory, you don’t retrieve something that already exists, fully formed — you create something new. Memory is about the present as much as it is about the past. A memory is made in the moment, and collapses back into its constituent elements as soon as it is no longer required. Remembering happens in the present tense. (p7)

What might this mean? I would propose that without knowing the principles of cognitive memory, the Evangelists could very well have sought to collapse memories. I touch on this in my book, especially in the realm of Pilate/Caesarea-by-the-Sea. This is also the principle behind post-diction, I would suggest.

Anyway, if you are interested… check out the book.

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