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Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity

Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity

Edited by Tom Thatcher
Series: Semeia Studies
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 372
  • Book Info
    Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity
    Book Description:

    Essential reading for scholars and students interested in sociology and biblical studies

    In this collection scholars of biblical texts and rabbinics engage the work of Barry Schwartz, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at the University of Georgia. Schwartz provides an introductory essay on the study of collective memory. Articles that follow integrate his work into the study of early Jewish and Christian texts. The volume concludes with a response from Schwartz that continues this warm and fruitful dialogue between fields.


    Articles that integrate the study of collective memory and social psychology into religious studiesEssays from Barry SchwartzTheories applied rather than left as abstract principles

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-954-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Preface: Keys, Frames, and the Problem of the Past
    (pp. 1-6)
    Tom Thatcher
  3. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Memory and History
    (pp. 7-38)
    Barry Schwartz

    Late Second Temple period scholarship is premised on the belief that Jews of the time thought about the past differently from the way we do. Their knowledge was rooted in traditional legends and communal bonds; ours is data-driven, self-critical, and context-free. Both statements—history is subjective and situation-dependent, and history is objective and situation-transcendent—provoke ambivalence because both are partly but not absolutely true. The problem begins when this ambivalence inhibits us from applying the findings of modern research to instances of ancient memory, for these findings often tell us what it means to “remember,” help us dissect the complex...

  4. Part 1: Remembering in Jewish Antiquity

    • Selective Recall and Ghost Memories: Two Aspects of Cultural Memory in the Hebrew Bible
      (pp. 41-56)
      Carol A. Newsom

      Biblical studies has long been concerned with aspects of what is now called “cultural memory,” especially in the form of a preoccupation with tradition history.¹ Yet even though the major theorists of tradition history were active at the same time that Maurice Halbwachs and Aby Warburg were developing their ideas about cultural memory in society and art, there is no evidence of intellectual cross-fertilization. More recently, the debates over historiography in biblical studies in the 1990s raised in an acute fashion issues relating to the preservation of reliable data in the historical narratives of the Bible versus the invention of...

    • Old Memories, New Identities: Traumatic Memory, Exile, and Identity Formation in the Damascus Document and Pesher Habakkuk
      (pp. 57-88)
      Tim Langille

      As communities continue to shape and reshape their collective memories, new events and information are constantly combined and integrated with previous knowledge to form flexible mental schemas. Representation of trauma and construction of collective identity are facilitated by these flexible, preexisting schemas. Memories of events run back and forth in time, from past to present and vice-versa, as more recent events and figures are associated with earlier ones (Schwartz 1991, 222, 233–34; van der Kolk and van der Hart 1995, 171; Yerushalmi 1996). The shattering and disruptive experiences of trauma are processed and represented through already-existing mnemonic and narrative...

    • Cult’s Death in Scripture: The Destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple Remembered by Josephus and Mark
      (pp. 89-112)
      Gabriella Gelardini

      To build on the words of Barry Schwartz, the destruction of the temple in 70 CE definitely “made a difference” for Flavius Josephus, who witnessed its eradication and recorded his memories shortly thereafter in Rome. Though his account of the conflict inJewish War(Bellum judaicum) was intended to set the Roman campaigns, especially those of the Flavians Vespasian and Titus, into the desired perspective, he focuses on the temple’s destruction, giving close attention to the matter of responsibility and thus weighing the question of war guilt. Josephus’s well-known answer to this problem is unambiguous: the Roman commanders were not...

    • Memory and Loss in Early Rabbinic Text and Ritual
      (pp. 113-128)
      Steven D. Fraade

      Early rabbinic literature poses special challenges to social memory theory and its application that are in some ways very different from those posed by the New Testament and the search for the “historical Jesus.” Conversely, early rabbinic literature provides exceptional opportunities for examining the relation between the practice and theory of collective memory in relation to the formation and maintenance of social identity. In what follows I will attend to both these challenges and opportunities (typically the flip side of one another) through the analysis of specific rabbinic texts that both thematize and practice collective memory in the face of...

  5. Part 2: Remembering in Emerging Christianity

    • The Memory–Tradition Nexus in the Synoptic Tradition: Memory, Media, and Symbolic Representation
      (pp. 131-160)
      Alan Kirk

      Tradition and memory are distinct yet somehow cognate phenomena, and Synoptic scholarship going back to the form critics has struggled with how properly to construe their relationship. The work of Barry Schwartz and Jan Assmann on social and cultural aspects of memory, and of experimental psychologists on its cognitive aspects, provides a framework for reconceptualizing and potentially resolving the vexed problem of the memory–tradition nexus. But the exploitation of memory research in Gospels scholarship has been scattershot and fragmentary, often ill-informed or selectively employed in special pleading. In English-language scholarship the discussion seems to have settled out into stagnating...

    • Prolegomena on the Textualization of Mark’s Gospel: Manuscript Culture, the Extended Situation, and the Emergence of the Written Gospel
      (pp. 161-186)
      Chris Keith

      One of the defining characteristics of Barry Schwartz’s substantial contributions to social memory studies is his consistent insistence that researchers should avoid being more skeptical about the connections between the past and the present than is warranted (inter alia, Schwartz 1982, 395–96; Zhang and Schwartz 1997, 189–91, 196–97, 205–8). This theme has also featured prominently in Schwartz’s interdisciplinary contributions to biblical studies. In one of his early contributions, he argued against overly cynical skepticism in Gospels scholarship (Schwartz 2005, 47–54; see also 2011, 225–26, 230–34), and his introductory essay to this volume continues...

    • The Memory of the Beloved Disciple: A Poetics of Johannine Memory
      (pp. 187-208)
      Jeffrey E. Brickle

      Barry Schwartz’s introduction to the present volume invites reflection on how social memory theory might illuminate the origins and context of the Johannine corpus. Conceiving of John as a cultural “memorian” (to borrow Jan Assmann’s term; 1997, 21) contrasts sharply with a tenaciously held view that portrays the author of the Fourth Gospel as a solitary, mystical purveyor of largely independent and idiosyncratic traditions transmitted within a relatively closed sectarian community. Schwartz’s provocative and insightful memory research compels one to reexamine John’s plausible network of associations and attempt to explain how these associations might relate to the occasion and nature...

    • The Shape of John’s Story: Memory-Mapping the Fourth Gospel
      (pp. 209-240)
      Tom Thatcher

      This essay will engage two foundational premises of Barry Schwartz’s theoretical model to address the long-debated questions of the “outline” of the Gospel of John and, secondarily, of the relationship between the structure of John’s narrative and the actual past of the world outside that text. In view of the obvious differences in structure and presentation between the Fourth Gospel (FG) and the Synoptics, and following Clement of Alexandria’s well-worn theorem that John’s is a “spiritual Gospel” (Eusebius,Hist. eccl. 6.14.5–7), commentators have tended to assume that FG’s outline is essentially a function/expression of its author’s theology and/or literary...

    • “According to the Scriptures”: Suffering and the Psalms in the Speeches in Acts
      (pp. 241-262)
      Rafael Rodríguez

      The shifting significance of Abraham Lincoln in American memory since his assassination in 1865 (see Schwartz 2000, 2008) is analogous to the varying—and so variable—interpretations of Jesus’ suffering throughout the last two millennia. The present essay surveys how the author of Luke-Acts employs traditions from the Psalms to provide an appropriate interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion. First, we will briefly survey Barry Schwartz’s model of social memory as “keying,” in which the past is matched to the present. Second, we will examine the function of quotations, allusions, and/or echoes of the Psalms within the speeches of Acts that help...

    • On the Difficulty of Molding a Rock: The Negotiation of Peter’s Reputation in Early Christian Memory
      (pp. 263-288)
      Frederick S. Tappenden

      As with his apostolic counterparts, the reputation of Peter in the early centuries of the Christian movement is described best as “mixed.” One need look no further than the undisputed Pauline epistles, the earliest Christian writings, to see that Peter is portrayed in both negative and positive ways. On the one hand, Paul portrays Peter as both the first to see the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:3) and as one of three “pillars” in the Jerusalem church (Gal 2:9). On the other hand, these positive descriptions are tempered by the image of Peter retained in Paul’s account of the dispute...

    • Social Memory and Commemoration of the Death of “the Lord”: Paul’s Response to the Lord’s Supper Factions at Corinth
      (pp. 289-310)
      Dennis C. Duling

      Paul’s attempt to resolve factions related to the Lord’s Supper meal at Corinth (1 Cor 11) poses a series of questions. Were the divisions based on ethnic divisions between Judeans and Gentiles, for example, differences in dietary restrictions? Were the factions reflective of social stratification in the Greco-Roman world? Did they mirror tensions in banquet customs in the broader culture? Did the usual living and dining spaces in which Christians gathered contribute to the divisions? What was Paul’s approach for resolving the differences, and was he successful in resolving them? Particularly for the purposes of the present volume, how did...

  6. Part 3: Reflections on a Coming Conversation

    • Harvest
      (pp. 313-338)
      Barry Schwartz

      Memory’s fallibility is well documented; its powers, less so. Acknowledging the evidential traces that all significant events leave behind, the preceding essays in this volume make memory’s credibility more evident. How ironic it is that so much ink has been spilled on social memory’s incidental functions—the forgetting or ignoring of wrongdoing, legitimating and challenging power, exaggerating and underestimating beneficent acts, giving voice to the marginalized—while its major function, to bring us into more direct contact with the past, the very capacity that gives memory its survival value, has led to nothing significant in the way of theoretical explication....

  7. Subject Index
    (pp. 350-362)