Speaking of memory . . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

A timely post has appeared on Bible and Interpretation, Memory and the Knowledge of Things Past, by Daniel Pioske. He asks some fundamental questions about the whole exercise. I had not realized it was also being applied to the Hebrew Bible — memories of “the exodus” and “king David”, apparently. I say it’s timely because it comes so soon after my recent post.

It seems few scholars among those studying biblical history at any rate have really stopped to seriously consider how we know what we know about the past. We saw the embarrassing gaffe by Bart Ehrman in this respect when he even opined that a photograph would be enough to establish the historicity of a past figure! And I won’t link again here to Larry Hurtado’s dismaying confusion between primary evidence and extrapolated interpretations from the data. (If you missed it and want it check my recent post on Memories of Jesus.) If you want my own views in summary form (I’ve done surely dozens of posts on the topic by now — check my Historical Method page linked in the right column here.)



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Neil Godfrey

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3 thoughts on “Speaking of memory . . . .”

  1. Implicit in belief that the Old Testament reveals memories is the assumption that the Old Testament, especially from Genesis through Kings, is history. I don’t think that assumption holds up.

  2. Pioske:

    For in contrast to the now stale debates of the 1990s and early 2000s between those who held to the historical or fictitious character of biblical storytelling, a connection between the past portrayed in the Hebrew Bible with a form of memory (whether cultural, collective, or social) allows the historian to move beyond these rather rigid distinctions. This is possible because studies of memory have illustrated how a remembered past is always constructed through the prism of present concerns, but in way that does not necessarily sever such memories from a time previous to their recollection.

    That attitude reminds me very much of Le Donne’s use of the term “refraction,” instead of falsification or distortion. I may have to blog about this article. So much to do, so little time.

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