At 03:17 PM 3/4/2004 -0500, Davis, Robert C. wrote:
>I have been thinking about this post for some time, and saving it for a
>time when I could do something with it. That time is now, evidently.
Thanks; I'm glad someone found my post interesting!
>I completely endorse your conceptualization of experience and how it
>"sources" later narrative traditions. I think you and Fox are right on
>target. Indeed, I am please to learn of Fox's work, since I have often
>felt like I have been a "voice in the wilderness" on this topic for some time.
>The question, both for the Exodus and later Jesus traditions, is how the
>process works which takes us from diverse memories through to more
>systematic and even absolutized narrative that is, if anything, now
This is a nicely succinct statement. I have heard it said that "doctrine"
is born out of an attempt to codify experience. And since experience is
necessarily subjective (viz., for example, the variety of responses to
Gibson's Passion of Christ), the process of transforming experience to
doctrine is essentially a communal effort. I don't think anyone starts out
with the idea of making doctrine in those initial stages; instead, a social
process takes place in order to develop a consensus about the experience.
This consensus may be articulated by one person, but that person is the
voice of the consensus. But it takes more than an articulator; it also
requires validation, for which a number of alternative processes can be in
> This certainly comprises several intermediate stages, including at least
> one or more oral phases. And because this is evidently true, the
> exercise of reconstructing overall process itself is more all that much
> more difficult. But not, I would submit, impossible.
>My own suspicion is that pretty much any national narrative tradition is
>ultimately constructed in some similar way to what we are talking about
>here. And if this is the case, then it might be possible to take a more
>recent example (such as America's own narrative tradition, perhaps?) and
>use it as a clue to more ancient ones like the Exodus and HJ.
>traditions. I am not suggesting that these would be exactly alike, only
>that they would be sufficiently similar so as to provide useful
>connections to older and less accessible narrative traditions. I don't
>have time at this point to parse this out here, but perhaps this can be
>taken up by the group so as to see if such might be successfully done.
Perhaps the "Pilgrims" might be an apt illustration. You may recall that
accompanying the pilgrims on the Mayflower were an assortment of
ne'er-do-wells swept up from the streets of London at the last minute. Most
people do not remember them, for their experience had no articulate
spokesperson. On the other hand, William Bradford (of whom I am supposedly
a descendant) had *books*(!), could write, and held positions of authority
within the community. It is his writings that became the "authoritative"
source. I don't have time at the moment to check it out, but the "Mayflower
Compact" was the Pilgrim's version of the Ten Commandments, and became
normative and authoritative for the Pilgrims in this sense: it became a
virtual charter for the "First Congregational" Church. I grew up in one
such church (Madison, Wisconsin), and on the wall of the large "Chapel"
(with pews that could easily seat 50 people) was a wall painting of the
(Does anyone else remember the Mayflower Compact? Or is this one of those
documents that is now fading from memory?) Of course, "Thanksgiving" is one
of the other enduring legacies of those days, shrouded by myth and
mystery-- as well as a bit of bunk, formulated hundreds of years later.
Perhaps there might be some instructive aspects of the process by which the
Mayflower Compact and "Thanksgiving" came to be.
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University
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