Anthony and I have both spent considerable effort in trying to articulate what, in our opinions, memory theory can and cannot bring to the historical Jesus table. We have done this in monographs, articles, and even here on this blog. In several personal conversations (admittedly sometimes with people whose passion exceeded their knowledge) I have been accused of being too far to the left (“Oh! Everything’s ‘interpretation, interpretation’! So there’s no history?”) and too far to the right (“Are you actually saying that you think we can know something about what really happened?”). I’m sure Anthony’s had his own version of these conversations, as have many others.
At the core of these conversations is a disagreement over what constitutes “history” and thus the proper goal of historical work. Everyone brings their own thoughts about these matters to the conversation, and I think that even Anthony and I would have some disagreements in the midst of substantial agreements. Okay, I know we would—we absolutely go round and round over where one should stop in speculation about the past. I think he’d agree with me, however, that Ruben Zimmermann has possibly provided the sound bite for what I have called the “new historiography” in Jesus studies.
In a 2011 article in Early Christianity, Zimmerman states, “Es gibt keine Historie jenseits des Textes. Aber es gibt Historie durch den Text und als Text.” For those who can’t speak or read German, or pretend like they can, this says, “There is no history on the other side of the text. But there is history through the text and as text.”
Go forth and spread the good news.