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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
Anthony Le Donne proposed a topic about Tatian and social memory (here, here, and here). I believe that the use of social memory is one of the most important and innovative concepts in Historical Jesus studies. I am unsure — as of yet — how this may play into second century Christianity. But it would seem I did not think it through just yet.
Chris Keith, “Big Daddy Pain,” has a response up here. He brings in the vile arch-heretic, almost as archy and heretical as Calvin, Marcion. Keith’s explanation is one worth considering as his his final suggestion. On the blog post. Linked just above. Why aren’t you reading that one?
I would call this memory manipulation, especially next to Marcion; although I reserve the right to consider that all literary events (new word ® — Mark is an event; Luke is a composition) as ideological to the core, even the Gospels — even Mark engaged in manipulating memory. So, I guess it would be social memory at work.
Although by the time you get to Marcion and Tatian, you are talking about manipulating a social memory of tradition, so maybe second or third hand. Thus we arrive back to were we started.
Anyway, Anthony Le Donne has suggested that those interested in social-memory (I am, especially when it comes to Mark. I figured Matthew and Luke (and John) were “remembering Mark. Also, there is no oral tradition after Mark) could focus on a variety of issues dealing with Justin’s star pupil.
I think that harmonization has little to do with memory but a lot to do with the Greco-Roman canon. I’ll need to do more with that, but there it is. Of course, I think Mark’s ending leads to Matthew, and Luke takes his cue for canon from Matthew. And there is John’s ending which by all
Wait. I’ll stop there on that one.
I would like to see how the Diatessaron shaped memory, however.
Kelber thought that what he was doing was a correction of the overly literary models of the form critics. Dunn claims to be returning to the interests of the “early” form critics, before they lost their way, but with a better “default setting”.
Nah, I don’t think Le Donne actually hates Rudi B., but that title will get a rise out of Jim West.
I have to admit that I’ve read both of Dr. Le Donne’s books and they are both important. I’m not going anywhere here, I just wanted to point that out and say that if you have not, you should.
Anyway, I hope that this is where my work will come in at. I like the word of the Form Critics as well as the Social Memory Critics, such as Le Donne and Keith. If you place these two together, you can began to give rhyme to the madness of how the Evangelists did what they did. They used and then manipulated memory. I will still contend that the exorcism in Mark 9 is perhaps the only reality-based exorcism in Mark’s Gospel and comes from an early tradition directly related to Jesus who was known to perform some sort of ritual in exorcising demons, as I hint at in my upcoming work on Mark’s Gospel.
Anyway, his answer and post — as always — is well worth the read and consideration.
I do not much care for redaction critics, as a side note, and rhetorical critics are starting to get on my nerves (unless they are working under form critics), but form critics… oh yes… they know what makes me happy.
In his book, FitzGerald draws upon contributions to rhetorical theory from Kenneth Burke along with a broad range of classical and contemporary perspectives on audience, address, speech acts, and modes of performance across all religious traditions and historical eras.
He says prayer is a phenomenon of both cognitive and social memory. It is cognitive because prayer is learned through performance, including memorization, and it is social because it is handed down through textual and oral transmission as a shared resource of a spiritual community.
The Historiographical Jesus introduces a new theory and approach for studying the life of Jesus. Anthony Le Donne uses the precepts of social memory theory to identify memory refraction in the Jesus tradition the refocusing distortion that occurs as the stories and sayings of Jesus were handed down and consciously and unconsciously framed in new settings with new applications. Recognition of this refraction allows historians to escape the problematic dichotomy between memory and typology. The author focuses on the title “Son of David” as it was used in Jewish and Christian traditions to demonstrate both how his new theory functions and to advance historical Jesus research.
Hardcover: 309 pages
Publisher: Baylor University Press (August 15, 2009)