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.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

One thought on “In which I discover something about Cognitive Memory Development that applies to the Gospels

  1. I would guess that recall is probably a hybrid of the two ideas mentioned, partly dependent on how frequently an event is recalled. I wonder how this is involved for the few that have total recall of all of the events in their lives to the extent that they can’t forget even minor details. They seem to recall details without any variation over time.

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