Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book Note: Performing the Gospel (Horsley, Draper, Foley)

Alan Kirk has written a very thorough review of Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark. It is an outstanding edited volume put together by Richard Horsley, Jonathan Draper and John Miles Foley for Werner Kelber. For those who want a quick introduction and submersion in oral consciousness (so vital for the study of our ancient texts), this is a good book to start the journey. I am already using Holly Hearon's contribution ("The Implications of Orality for Studies of the Biblical Text") in my 100-level Introduction to New Testament Studies course at Rice.

I would also like to draw attention to the candid contribution in Performing the Gospel by Jens Schröter, a German scholar who has written another very intense book that I highly recommend on the sayings tradition in the context of social memory studies (Erinnerung an Jesu Worte). His article is called "Jesus and the Canon: The Early Jesus Traditions in the Context of the Origins of the New Testament Canon." He argues quite convincingly that the early church understood the Jesus tradition from the beginning to be "a free and living tradition" which was augmented by an ongoing process of written versions of various gospels. There was "no fundamental difference" between oral and written tradition, but they represent analogous processes in which the living tradition was adapted to new contexts. The tradition was not oriented toward the preservation of original words of Jesus. He says that we must abandon the idea of a "fixed, authoritative form of the tradition." He also shows how the Jesus tradition became linked to "apostolic preaching" to give particular versions of the tradition authority. He takes very seriously the apocrypha for the study of Christian origins. His overview in this article hits many of the same points that I have written about as well, particularly in my first chapter of Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas ("The 'New' Traditionsgeschichtliche Approach," especially pages 24-37). Thank you Jens for this fine contribution.

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