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 the Death of Jesus.” This chapter begins with a short summary of what psychologists have discovered about personal memories, and how we remember, since the first experiments were published in 1885 down to the present day. My interest is both in how we as humans tend to remember the “gist” of what happened in the past and how also we “misremember” things. Our memories are faulty, frail, and sometimes even false.
The eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life had faulty memories as well – they must have had, if they were human beings. I will be arguing in the following chapter 5 that it is simply not the case – despite what you sometimes hear or read – that people in oral cultures (as opposed to writing cultures such as ours) had better memories than the rest of us and worked diligently to preserve their traditions intact, since there were no real means of preserving them otherwise. That view is wrong, wrong, wrong, as I’ll try to show. But in this chapter I’m dealing with personal memories.
The eyewitnesses had faulty memories. As did the people to whom they told their stories (as they tried to remember what they had been told); and the people to whom those people told the stories; and the people to whom they told the stories; and so on.
As a result …
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