Just to give a bit of background to the work I’ve just started doing on the question of the oral traditions about Jesus in the years before the Gospels were written, some initial points:
1) I am not, decidedly NOT, the first scholar to think this might be of some interest! On the contrary, it has long been intriguing to scholars, and there are a number of important books that have appeared in recent years, for example, James Dunn, The Oral Gospel Tradition (just last year!) and, even better known, Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (a fat and very important book.) I would make two points about these (and other similar) books: they are not written for general audiences but for scholars, and I fundamentally disagree with lots of their views and claims! My approach will be very different, as, no doubt, will be my conclusions and arguments.
2) I am just at the beginning stages of my work. My plan is to read as extensively as I can over the next three months on the issues of memory (cognitive and neuro-science perspectives, more cognitive than neuro-science, since I’m interested more in the phenomenon than in the brain science that explains it), collective memory (from a sociological perspective), and orality (from anthropological and folkloric perspectives). I’ll then sit back and see what I need to read next. I’ll then read it. I’ll then figure out what the book might look like, and figure out what more I need to read and think about it order to write it. Then I’ll write it. But only if I’m ready.
3) As I pointed out, all this reading is necessary, and all these modern works of scholarship have emerged because, the older view among New Testament scholars, developed in the 1920s – the first time oral tradition was taken with utmost seriousness by scholars – is subscribed to precisely no one today (to my knowledge). This was the view of the form critics. In my last post I indicated that I would say something about them, and here I will do just that. Well, I’ll begin to do that, by giving some necessary background to the background.
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