Re: [J_D_G_DunnSeminar] Neusner & Mnemonic Systems
- Dear David Hindley,
Apologies for the delay in replying - had to take a couple of days
off on family business (including seeing my daughter in a tremendous
performance of Sondheim's A Little Night Music in Leicester.
Thanks for coming back. Neusner, I took it, was apologizing for
blanket dismissal of BG on the grounds that the rabbinic material was so
later. And the implication is that the traditions, or at least the
traditioning processes might well go back a good deal further. At any
the grounds for the blanket dismissal are much less sound that Smith
That's certainly a welcome reassessment of a position unfairly
and dismissed by the Smith-type response. The very fact that the
can speak of the tradition of the elders and Paul can speak of handing
traditions, should have been clear enough evidence that traditioning
processes were well established in Pharisaic circles at the time of
But I would have to do a lot more study of rabbinic traditions before I
comment further to good effect.
The question mark I place againt BG's thesis is a different one.
'Memorizing' does not provide the obvious key to the Jesus tradition as
have it. Certainly there is an element of it in the stabilities of the
tradition (as one memorizes the punch line of a punch line joke); but
punch line is not the whole joke; and the stable matter is not the
tradition. So we need a more comprehensive model - which Bailey's
controlled' model provides.
"David C. Hindley" wrote:
> Professor Dunn.
> If I can submit one last question before you go ... <g>
> In your paper, you discussed Birger Gerhardsson's hypotheses of
> "'rigidly controlled transmission' of words and deeds of Jesus," but
> dismiss it as too rigid. However Jacob Neusner's work, except where he
> apologizes for a negative early review of Gerhardsson's _Memory & Mss_
> (in the foreword to the 1998 edition of that book - and a bizarre
> foreword that is too!), is not discussed.
> While I do understand Neusner's explanation for now endorsing
> Gerhardsson's book (that B. G. proposes *a* possible explanation for
> the formal transmission of tradition, based upon purported Rabbinical
> practice as described in Rabbinical literature, as opposed to offering
> *the* explanation for how Christian tradition was passed on, or that
> this process *was* in fact practiced before 70 CE, and thus not
> actually contradicting any of Neusner's principal themes), Neusner
> does seem to identify mnemonic systems in subgroups of material within
> the Mishna (ca. 200 CE).
> Do you think that these systems were probably *not* in common use, at
> least in Jewish circles, in Jesus' time and immediately after (say, up
> to the war)? There is a difference between not being attested in
> contemporary documents (as Neusner stresses) and not occurring at all
> (which I think Neusner implies, but does not say). Such practices
> would, I think, have some developmental history behind them, that
> certainly could have been in use or in development in the early 1st
> century CE.
> I guess this relates to my quotation from John Miles Foley
> (_Oral-Formularic Theory and Research_, New York: Garland, 1985),
> where he cautions:
> "More analysis needs to be done of the many non-epic forms of
> different traditions, particularly where well-collected and
> indisputably oral material exists on one side or the other. We need to
> know how other genres work, to what degree they conform to the laws of
> epic oral narrative and to what degree they have their own distinctive
> dynamics." (pg. 69)
> What is your take on Neusner's contribution? He does not appear to
> have nearly as rigid a concept of Rabbinical memorization systems as
> Gerharddson seems to. Since you are taking up Bailey's cause of
> "informed, controlled, oral tradition" I would think there should be
> parallels relevant to your thesis.
> Dave Hindley
> Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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