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99Re: [J_D_G_DunnSeminar] Sequence and selection

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  • Daniel Grolin
    May 3 1:27 PM
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      Dear Prof. Dunn,

      You wrote
      <Your illustrations are fine, except (1) they envisage the process as a
      more individual recollecting, whereas I emphasise the community
      dimension,>

      Granted. I expect that the community memory is different from individual
      memory, in that the community assists in assuring flexible and inflexible
      elements in the tradition. It also increases total storage capacity (6000
      traditions!).

      <and (2) are you taking enough account of the fact that the traditioning
      process as an oral exercise would inevitably fare more developed than your
      own experiments with a class in today's long-established literary world?>

      No, I certainly would expect people from an oral culture to perform much
      better in such a test. However, the memory of modern men are not
      essentially not worse than pre-modern men. We have passwords, telephone
      numbers, etc. that we must remember. Academics have host of textual memory
      that tax them. What I found more interesting, however, was what the
      experiment showed me about the process of recollection. That process I
      think is universal and applicable as much in the past as it is today.

      <So, not repetition, but teaching and story with elements of stability and
      variableness such as we see in the Synoptics still to this day.>

      My problem is that your line of argument comes from looking, not at the
      nature of oral memory (communal or otherwise), but from looking at the end
      product (i. e. the text of the Gospels). I see nothing in what you have
      presented from Kenneth Bailey that suggest this tendency.

      There are two of the texts that you mention that I think could plausibly
      be aggregated in its oral stage:

      The first is the beatitudes. We know from Thomas that they have existed
      separate. However, they have qualities that I think sufficient to argue an
      oral union. 1) They are applicable to largely the same situation without
      saying the same thing. 2) They are have the same form and one needs just
      remember the antithetical promises (poor-kingdom, hungry-feed, etc.). In
      this case placing them together may even help remembering the sayings. Yet
      even after being assembled I can imagine them used by themselves as
      proverbs for appropriate occasions.

      The mission statement, which explained the itinerant prophet's lifestyle.
      This had to be learnt and drilled in because it was a set of rules that
      were a constant in every day of the itinerant. Unlike other lifestyle
      teachings, these seem to have been a complete counter-social set of
      teachings. Each time a new itinerant joined, a fix set of teachings were
      taught.

      So, to qualify my reservations: In general I think collection is a process
      of textuality (as suggested by Kelber), however, there are cases in which
      I think collection makes sense. The exceptions I have noted I think have
      particular qualities that distinguish them from other oral traditions.

      Regards,

      Daniel
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