Baker Academic

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

McIver's JBL Essay

Today I received a link to the newest Journal of Biblical Literature. I noticed this:

Eyewitnesses as Guarantors of the Accuracy of the Gospel Traditions in the Light of Psychological Research
Robert K. McIver, 529–546

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing McIver's book (on the same topic) for Catholic Biblical Quarterly. I will not relay the entire review here, but here are a couple paragraphs:

It has become commonplace in Gospels/Jesus studies to point to the 30-60 year interval between the oral transmission of the tradition(s) and its calcification in writing.  Many emphasize this interval in support of the fortuitous eye-witness testimonies influential in the calcification process (e.g. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006]); others emphasize this interval to demonstrate the frailty of human memory (e.g. Judith C. S. Redman, “How Accurate Are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research,” Journal of Biblical Literature 129, no. 1 [2010]: 177-97).  While much has been done in recent decades to contextualize this process within oral/aural culture and media studies more generally, Robert K. McIver’s monograph is the most comprehensive treatment to date on the cognitive psychology of memory and how this relates to the Synoptic Gospels.
             While many readers will demur from M.’s optimistic conclusions regarding the “authenticity” of the Synoptics, the brilliance of his study is found in the first four chapters.  Indeed, the first third of this book outmodes most previous appeals to the interval of memory between the crucifixion and the writing of Mark.  Henceforth, any work on the Gospels that repeats the words “reliability,” “accuracy,” “credibility” or “eye-witnesses,” but does not cite this book must be considered deficient.