Do I Have the Expertise Needed for My Book?

 

QUESTION: 

You have criticized other scholars for writing on subjects outside their fields of expertise – Reza Aslan, for instance, for his book on the historical Jesus when he is a sociologist, not a historian of religion. Have you considered editing a work with experts in the various fields that speak to the eyewitness to tradition to textual pipeline? Would such a collaboration likely be any more informative to a general audience?

 

RESPONSE:

Ah, great question!  I’m going to answer what I ...

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Help! My Views of Memory

I am thinking about ending my book with a kind of Paean to Memory.   I expect that some people will find it a bit  controversial or even off-putting.  Or maybe not!   Here is what a draft of the kind of thing I’m thinking about saying.  Let me know what you think.  (It’s longer than my typical post.)

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Like most authors, I get a lot of email from people who have read my books.   I find one of ...

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More on Collective Memory

As I discussed in my previous post, the sixth chapter of my proposed book Jesus Before the Gospels will cover the area of “collective memory.”  This is a kind of memory that a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of, but it has long been discussed by sociologists.   Here is how I summarize the views of the famous scholar who first articulated an understanding of collective memory, Maurice Halbwachs.

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The term “collective memory” was coined ...

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My Memory Book, Chapter 6 on “Collective Memory”

The sixth chapter of my book Jesus Before the Gospels is tentatively entitled “Collective Memory and Early Recollections of Jesus.”  In it I deal with the phenomenon that sociologists call collective memory.   This phenomenon is different from the one we normally think of when we think of memory; most of the time we think of the psychological phenomenon of individual memories – either of things we’ve experienced (“episodic” memories, as they are called, as I have pointed out), ...

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My Memory Book: False Memories and the Life of Jesus

As I indicated in my previous two posts, the fifth chapter of the book I’m now writing, Jesus Before The Gospels, deals with “False Memories and the Life of Jesus.”  The first part of the chapter shows what we know about how traditions are kept alive in oral cultures, as they are told and retold, either by professionals who are experts or by regular ole folk who are not.   And so this part of the chapter summarizes the ...

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“The Same” Traditions in Oral Cultures

As I have been discussing my next book Jesus Before the Gospels, I have been trying to summarize the issues I’ll be addressing and the points I’ll be making, without spilling all the beans and stealing my own thunder.  My idea is to get people interested in the book without making them think they don’t now need to read it!  I’m not sure how successful I’m being at that, but it’s at least the goal.

As I started indicating ...

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Differences Between Oral and Written Cultures

Chapter  5 of my book Jesus Before the Gospels (tentatively titled) is called “False Memories and the Life of Jesus” (tentatively titled).   The first part of the chapter deals with a very common misconception about oral traditions in oral cultures – a misconception I hear all the time from lots of people, including my students who get upset when I discuss how traditions about Jesus appear to have been altered in the process of retelling in the years ...

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My Memory Book, Chapter 4 Again: The Death of Jesus

I am in the midst of a thread summarizing my current book project, Jesus Before the Gospels, which I am writing now, even as we speak.   The book will have six major chapters and a short conclusion.   Yesterday I finished drafting chapter 5, and hope to polish off the final two chapters next week, before revising it and sending it out to readers for comments.

In my previous posts I said some things about chapter 4, “False Memories and ...

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What Is A Memory?

A number of readers on the blog have objected to my understanding of memory, specifically to what a memory is, that is, to what constitutes a memory.  As a rule, these readers have argued – some with considerable force and conviction! – that a “memory” is a mental recollection of something that one has personally experienced.

Let me cite one of the more closely reasoned expressions of this alternative view by one of my respondents, before explaining my view ...

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Can A Made-Up Story Be A False Memory?

It has become clear to me, in seeing a number of responses to my posts on memory, that I’m not quite  explaining myself clearly enough to get my point across to everyone.  So, well, what else is new?

When I have mentioned “false memories” in the Gospels – that is, recollections of Jesus that are not true to what really happened – some readers have pointed out that these may not be memories at all, but they may simply be what ...

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