Book Review: Memory, Tradition, and Text edited by Kirk and Thatcher

the archives near Emmaus

Kirk, Alan and Tom Thatcher, Memory, Tradition, Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity (Semeia Studies; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005). (

Message of the Book:

This volume applies the findings of memory studies—specifically social or group memory—to the field of biblical studies. In an effort to get past the black-and-white, either/or of form critical studies—where an event either happened as it is narrated or it is considered to be an invention of early Christianity—these authors ask if we might better understand the formation of Christian traditions if we examine the layering evolved when a group begins to “remember” events together, giving these events meaning, which in turn provides identity and a functioning social framework for the group.

Social memory exists when a group begins to define itself by telling stories about important foundational events, supplying those stories with contemporary interpretations and relevance, and then allowing…

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