I note that memory studies applied to the Gospels seem to omit a due emphasis on the intentionality of the rabbi-disciple relationship of Jesus and the apostles.
It is one thing to merely remember and another to be taught to remember, with a delegated -- and sacred -- task of conveying to others what is remembered.
The generality of memory, in contrast with neglect of details, may have characterized the method of the rabbi as well as the character of memory generally.First, I’d like to thank Bobby for his comment as it allows me to make a point about Dunn’s emphasis on the “impact” of memory. My reply to Bobby reads:
The point you are making is made in a very compelling way by Dunn in his Jesus Remembered. Jimmy emphasizes the impact of sacred memory. He speaks of it as the "life blood" of the disciples. It is the force of impact that made Jesus memorable, and worth remembering - thus it is not casual memory that we're talking about....more...
Further to this reply, I should also point out Dunn’s chapter in this book where he strongly criticizes the model of “social memory”. Here are a few quotes that relate to Bobby’s observation:
…the fact that Jesus was commonly recognized, both by his contemporaries and his disciples, as a teacher. The very term implies a deliberate and structured impartation of knowledge and wisdom, and a concern on the part of both teacher and taught that the teaching be remembered and become part of the disciples repertoire and resource in the practice of their discipleship. In an oral society remembering would be the primary means by which the individual disciple could retain and be able to draw upon teaching in the future (“Social Memory and the Oral Jesus Tradition”, p.185).Dunn concludes:
According to D. Ben-Amos and L. Weissberg, ‘Tradition is finally nothing but deformed memory’ [Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity, p. 15]. That seems to me to overemphasize the creative character of remembering as a whole. More to the point here, however, the dictum fails to take account of the considerations marshalled above: of how tradition functions in an oral society; of how repeated instruction can shape a life and become the life-blood of a community; of how tradition can serve as the actively continuing expression of a transforming encounter with the one remembered… (“Social Memory and the Oral Jesus Tradition”, p.193).While I am a strong advocate for an adapted form of "social memory theory", I have also tried to take Dunn seriously in my own work in terms of the "impact" of memory. The jury is still out on whether or not I've done so with any success. I remember an early draft I wrote of a chapter for the same book. This was the first time that a memory theorist applied the concept of "memory distortion" to the Jesus tradition. I wrote something like "here I follow Dunn in emphasizing the 'impact' of memory"... Jimmy looked over this draft and wrote in the margin, "NOT SO FAR, YOU DON'T!" Those were fun days.
Here is my point: I agree that significant memories serve a different purpose than casual memories, and our brains function differently when there is emotion attached to a memory. But this is not to say that there is any less focus employed to retain what is important about the memory. Perhaps (probably?) even more focus is employed. If so, we have a case of heightened memory "selection" and even more motive to continue to make the memory intelligible in commemorative frameworks (in this case, sacred frameworks). This is why I argue that the more significant the memory is, the more it will be subject to interpretation.
This is not to say that the person behind the memory does not have a large say in the way his/her memory is refracted by subsequent generations.