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  • James Lewis
    Professor Dunn, Thank you for your willingness to share your provocative paper with us and for the opportunity to explore its content more deeply through this
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2001
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      Professor Dunn,

      Thank you for your willingness to share your provocative paper with
      us and for the opportunity to explore its content more deeply through
      this seminar.

      My questions center on your use of the term 'impact' and its
      significance within the framework of your thesis.

      You begin (1.4) with a partial definition of 'impact' as the effect
      of Jesus' teaching and deeds on the disciples, an effect which leads
      to the initiation of the (oral) tradition. Later (3.6) you point out
      that this 'impact' was such that "...it was recalled, its key
      emphases crystallized in the overall theme and/or in particular words
      and phrases..." Presumably those words and phrases would be
      utterances of Jesus himself, as you imply above. It would seem likely
      that the first hearers would wish to rehearse and recall his words
      which had made such an 'impact' on them. Yet you go on to remark,
      "There was no concern to recall all the precise words of Jesus..."
      Later still (4.1), however, you state, "...the impacting word or
      event became the tradition of that word or event." Whose word could
      this have been other than Jesus'? Still in 4.1, you state, "The
      character of the tradition as shared memory means that in many
      instances we do not know precisely what it was that Jesus did or
      said. What we have in the Jesus tradition is the consistent and
      coherent features of the shared impact made by his deeds and words,
      not the objective deeds and words of Jesus as such (my italics)." I
      have a difficult time conceptualizing a tradition that contains
      'impacts' but not words of the one who makes the 'impact' and why the
      nature of the tradition as shared memory reduces the possibility of
      knowing what Jesus said or did.

      The apparent conflict between 'impact' and 'word' becomes even more
      acute in your discussion of the shared mission of the disciples
      (4.1). You state that you find it hard to avoid the inference that
      "their preaching would have...included teaching which Jesus had given
      them." Yet that teaching, you go on to surmise, was "not in a
      verbatim mode, but in a mode which would convey the
      disciple-effecting impact which they themselves had experienced." I
      am at a loss to understand what that mode might be if it is not to
      include something like Jesus' actual words.

      Towards the end of your paper (4.3) you seem to back off somewhat
      from the implications of a wordless 'impact' by pointing to 'the
      likelihood that the stabilities of the tradition were sufficiently
      maintained and the variabilities of the retellings subject to
      sufficient control for the substance of the tradition, and often
      actual words of Jesus which made the first tradition-forming impact,
      to continue as integral parts of the living tradition...(my italics)"
      Indeed, you go farther in your Summary: "...the memories [of the
      discipleship and embryonic communities] consisted in stories and
      teachings whose own identity was focused in particular words and
      phrases--usually those said by Jesus himself."

      I wonder if you would be so kind as to elucidate a bit more fully
      your concept of 'impact' and clarify what at first glance might be
      perceived as a certain opaqueness.


      James Lewis

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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