Baker Academic

Monday, May 20, 2013

Behind the Gospels by Eric Eve—Chris Keith

Today in the mail I received a copy of Eric Eve’s new book, Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition

I was able to read the prepublication manuscript of this book, and it’s fantastic.  It is now the go-to first port of entry into scholarly discussion of how we got the Gospels and what the Jesus tradition would have looked like prior to its textualization in the Gospels.  Eve provides an introduction to the important scholarship from form criticism up to the present.  Although it’s heavily focused on the oral tradition, Eve takes clear account of the impact of memory studies as well, offering several chapters on this topic.  What makes this book so great is that Eve has a very balanced perspective on everything, taking stock of the strengths and weaknesses of all the major models for understanding the oral tradition.  Here’s his conclusion to whet your appetite: 

“It should by now be clear that thinking about the oral tradition behind the Gospels has moved on a long way since the days of classical form criticism.  It also seems clear that any account of the pre-Gospel tradition has to reckon with the interplay between stability and flexibility, recollection and interpretation, novelty and conformity to cultural expectations, and the needs to understand the past in light of the present and the present in light of the past, and that this interplay is extremely unlikely to have resulted in either photographic recall or total invention.  Finally, oral tradition has increasingly come to be understood within the context of social memory, and it may be that in future research memory will turn out to be a more useful category than oral tradition.”  (p.185).

Congratulations to Eric on a fine volume! 

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