Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sandra Hübenthal on Social and Cultural Memory—Chris Keith

In an earlier post, I pointed out that some critics of memory theory appear surprisingly uninformed of the complexities of the theory itself and seem to be dependent simply upon second-hand applications of the theory in Biblical Studies, and only a fraction of second-hand applications at that.  One of the scholars I mention in that post who has been overlooked is Sandra Hübenthal of Tübingen.  I have just finished reading her essay “Social and Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis: The Quest for an Adequate Application” (in Niels Peter, ed., Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis, Gorgias Press, 2012) and recommend it enthusiastically to anyone interested in memory theory in Biblical Studies.  She shows precisely why generalized references to “memory” are inadequate—social memory, collective memory, and cultural memory all refer to different things.  Furthermore, and this is a particularly significant insight, in German discourse soziales, kommunikatives, and kulturelles Gedächtnis tend to mean something different than their English counterparts mean.  And, even further, Hübenthal notes something that several of us working with Jan Assmann have also noted, which is that his and his wife’s understandings of kommunikatives and kulturelles Gedächtnis have undergone changes just in the last several years.

Quite simply, Hübenthal’s essay is a must-read for anyone who wants to work accurately with the theory.  Her comments toward the end on the differences between approaching the New Testament texts as kommunikatives Gedächtnis and kollectives Gedächtnis indicate just why this approach contains so much promise for New Testament and early Christian studies.  We eagerly anticipate the publication of Dr. Hübenthal’s Habilitationschrift!

8 comments:

  1. Great! Another $200 "must-read". Take it out of the library, you say? Easier said than done. http://bit.ly/ZEoLSV. How did you get your copy?

    Anthony, if these ideas are so important, then something should be done to make them reasonably available. Otherwise, there's no reason for you to regard anyone as "surprisingly uninformed". Some may be uninformed, but at least when it comes to this book, I don't see why anyone should be surprised.

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    1. Word to the wise: savvy interwebs usage and proximity to a theological library can cure many ills.... but I agree. Anything over $40 is too expensive. And I say that as someone who has his name on the cover of a $120 book.

      -anthony

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    2. Well ... my comment gave a link indicating that the closest library with a copy of this book is the Library of Congress. The closest theological library to me is, I think, at Fuller Theological Seminary. I checked their online catalog, and it CONFIRMS that the closest library to me with this book is the Library of Congress.

      I called Fuller. They will allow me "limited access" to their library, which I understand to mean that I can read books there that are on the unrestricted library shelves. They will not give me access to reserved or restricted materials, or to their computer database. They will not give me borrowing privileges, absent a vote from the faculty granting me visiting scholar privileges.

      To be clear, Fuller's policy towards non-students is generous IMHO, and I do not mean to be critical of Fuller in ANY way. I know, for example, that the policy of the library at Hebrew Union College in LA is more restrictive than Fuller's. I AM trying to indicate that the access of non-scholars to the material we discuss here is limited in ways scholars may not appreciate. I am saying this as a highly privileged character with the means to buy more than his share of $40 books, and who is married to a college professor who can open a few doors for him.

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    3. I suppose that I was speaking about expensive books in general. But your point is well taken.

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  2. Whoops! Forgot to check who wrote the post before I posted my comment. Sorry. Chris, I think I've hassled you too much already about the price of books.

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  3. Yeah, you really do need to find something else to say, Larry. (Well, I take that back. You have plenty of other things to say too and we love having you here on the blog.) But still, it's not like we're responsible for the book prices. And the price of the book has nothing to do with whether something in it is, in someone's opinion, a must-read.

    My comment about some people being uninformed had nothing to do with the general reader but rather people who are publishing articles claiming that NT scholars who appeal to memory theory, in general, use the theory to affirm the historicity of the texts. This essay is one more example of an application of the theory that do not fit that characterization and is not cited in studies making those claims.

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    1. Chris, point taken. I'll try not to mention the price of books again (!!). I think we'd both be happy if the information you described was more readily available. Fortunately, this blog is both a "must read" and a "can read". While I'm being nice, I'll also say how much I'm enjoying "Jesus' Literacy", particularly now that it's available at popular prices (!!).

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    2. Thanks for the kind words Larry! I'm glad to know you're enjoying it.

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