Stephen C. Barton, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Benjamin G. Wold, eds. Memory in the Bible and Antiquity: The Fifth Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium (Durham, September 2004). Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 212. Edited by Jörg Frey. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007. vi + 394 pp. Hb. € 109.00. ISBN: 978-3-16-149251-8.
As I mentioned in a previous book review, the study of memory has exploded in the past few decades. This book is the result of a collaboration between the Theology departments based at Durham University in England (where I am currently studying) and Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. Back in 2004, these two departments hosted their fifth symposium in Durham. The theme of that meeting was “Memory and Remembrance in Early Judaism and Early Christianity.” According to the introduction, this topic was chosen in order to meet a research gap in the study of memory, namely the “theological and socio-religious significance of memory” (p. 1). Since this symposium took place when I was only sixteen years old, I am not aware of whether this symposium filled that gap at the time. However, I can tell you that this book was, by and largely, a joy to read and contains valuable research that I will continue to use for years to come.
The book consists of a pretty standard introduction and sixteen essays (12 in English and 4 in German). The following is the stellar Table of Contents:
Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Stephen C. Barton, and Benjamin G. Wold
1. Joachim Schaper
The Living Word Engraved in Stone: The Interrelationship of the Oral and the Written and the Culture of Memory in the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua
2. Erhard Blum
Historiography or Prose? The Peculiarities of the Hebrew Prose Tradition
3. Benjamin G. Wold
Memory in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Exodus, Creation and Cosmos
4. Loren T. Stuckenbruck
The Teacher of Righteousness Remembered: From Fragmentary Sources to Collective Memory in the Dead Sea Scrolls
5. Hermann Lichtenberger
History-writing and History-telling in First and Second Maccabees
6. William Horbury
The Remembrance of God in the Psalms of Solomon
7. John M. G. Barclay
Memory Politics: Josephus on Jews in the Memory of the Greeks
8. Doron Mendels
Societies of Memory in the Graeco-Roman World
9. Anthony Le Donne
Theological Memory Distortion in the Jesus Tradition
10. James D. G. Dunn
Social Memory and the Oral Jesus Tradition
11. Martin Hengel
Der Lukasprolog und seine Augenzeugen: Die Apostel, Petrus und die Frauen
12. Ulrike Mittmann-Richert
Erinnerung und Heilserkenntnis im Lukasevangelium
13. Anna Maria Schwemer
Erinnerung und Legende: Die Berufung des Paulus und ihre Darstellung in der Apostelgeschichte
14. Hans-Joachim Eckstein
Das Johannesevangelium als Erinnerung an die Zukunft der Vergangenheit
15. Stephen C. Barton
Memory and Remembrance in Paul
16. Markus Bockmuehl
New Testament Wirkungsgeschichte and the Early Christian Appeal to Living Memory
As you can see from the Table of Contents, the subject matter stretches across a wide range of topics and time frames including Deuteronomy, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the intertestamental period, Josephus, the Gospels, and Paul. This offering of topics demonstrates the adaptable nature of memory studies; it can be applied to any stage of the Judaeo-Christian spectrum.
Four particular highlights of this book for me were chapters 1, 3, 10, and 15.
In chapter 1, Joachim Schaper discusses the role of writing and memory in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua. This is a highly relevant topic as it is in these books where memory plays the most prominence in the Old Testament. Furthermore, it is the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua that speak of the “book” of the Torah of Moses. It is this link between memory and writing that Schaper explores in this essay, and he does so with great skill and insight. He makes such observations as, “As far as Deuteronomy and Joshua are concerned, the written record is at the heart of the religious life and thus at the heart of the whole of Israelite existence…[but] textuality, in ancient Israel and Judah, cannot do without orality” (p. 15). Thus, the written Torah became the standard with which everything could be compared. The Torah should be recited and taught to the next generation, but there was a written standard.
In chapter 3, Benjamin Wold offers as fascinating and important study of every text from the Dead Sea Scrolls which use the Hebrew word זכר (“remember”) with either creation or the exodus as the object. Wold chose these two topics of remembrance because they are the most common objects of memory, both in the Old Testament and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Wold notes that within these texts, the Qumran community saw themselves as still in exile and thus remembered the act of God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt with the hope that they too would be redeemed from their present bondage. Similarly, this community remembered creation while looking for a future new creation.
In chapter 10, James Dunn offers an important companion piece to his book entitled, Christianity in the Making. Vol. 1: Jesus Remembered. As a result of Dunn’s title, many readers were surprised that he never offered no comprehensive theory of how memory functions. The chapter in this present collection is meant to fill that gap. Although many evangelicals will not agree with Dunn’s theory of memory and how that memory ended up in the form of the four Gospels, Dunn makes many claims that do support the more conservative position. For example, Dunn believes that the traditions about Jesus were standardized very quickly. Dunn also argues that due to the importance of Jesus it is highly unlikely that any divergent stories could be introduced without being met with severe resistance. In the end, this article is vital for a complete understanding of Dunn’s work on early Christianity and is therefore a very important article.
In chapter 15, Stephen Barton presents a study of the role of memory in Paul’s letters. This is an interesting study because of the fact that memory takes on a very interesting role in Paul’s writings. As opposed to the common role of memory in the Old Testament as the recollection of a past event, Paul instead is simply seen remembering. These acts of remembrance, Barton argues, occur through prayer, giving, meals, and autobiography. This is certainly an interesting study, but in the end it may miss out on several important texts. Certainly it would miss the point if a word study was the primary means for analysing Paul’s use of memory. For example, even though Paul does not use the word “remember” in I Chor 10, he is most assuredly remembering the unfaithfulness of Israel in the wilderness. In the end, Barton’s study is helpful, but I believe that it could be taken much further.
As an overall text, this volume argues strongly for the importance of memory to the study of the Bible. Not only is the subject of memory present to a high degree within the Bible itself, but the study of memory can offer great insight into the understanding of how the early church received and passed on stories about Jesus. On the other hand, the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of Scripture can never be forgotten. This book was a pleasure to read and contained invaluable studies to which I will return again and again.