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Re:[John_Lit] Memory

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... Jeffrey, I d suggest you read Part II (Chapters 3-6) on Memory and Orality in Crossan s The Birth of Christianity as a good starting place. He will confirm
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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      At 04:14 PM 12/3/01 -0800, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:
      >A note of skepticism about some of the claims being
      >made concerning memory in antiquity.
      >
      >There have been a lot of modern studies of memory by
      >modern psychologists and neurologists, and from what I
      >have read of their work, I would be very surprised if
      >it were common for people to remember every word
      >spoken in a lengthy discourse upon a single occasion.
      >
      >Why do I say this? Because it has been shown that most
      >of us have rather limited short-term memories -- I
      >recall (or hope that I do) reading that our short-term
      >memories can hold only 5 to 8 items of information at
      >a time. So, for an individual to remember everything,
      >he or she would have to transfer everything said by
      >the speaker into his or her long-term memory at a
      >rather rapid rate.
      >
      >Now, I realize that people in antiquity had techniques
      >for remembering, and I guess that they had rhetorical
      >devices for speaking in a way to make their words
      >memorable, but I still find unlikely that people could
      >commonly recall every word spoken in a long discourse
      >upon a single occasion.
      >
      >Has anybody tested this assumption in contemporary
      >oral cultures? I would be interested in knowing if my
      >skepticism is misdirected.
      >
      >Jeffery Hodges

      Jeffrey,
      I'd suggest you read Part II (Chapters 3-6) on Memory and Orality in
      Crossan's The Birth of Christianity as a good starting place. He will
      confirm many of your worst fears. The chapters are written as a deliberate
      counterpoint to those who place great faith in the precision of oral memory.

      Bob
      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University
      Flagstaff, AZ
    • Horace Jeffery Hodges
      ... Actually, Jeffery . ... Thanks for the reference. I really should take a look at it. However, I want to clarify something since I seem to have been
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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        Bob Schacht wrote:

        > Jeffrey,

        Actually, "Jeffery".

        > I'd suggest you read Part II (Chapters 3-6) on
        > Memory and Orality in Crossan's The Birth of
        > Christianity as a good starting place. He will
        > confirm many of your worst fears. The chapters are
        > written as a deliberate counterpoint to those who
        > place great faith in the precision of oral memory.

        Thanks for the reference. I really should take a look
        at it.

        However, I want to clarify something since I seem to
        have been misunderstood by Joe Gagne. I have great
        respect for the power of memory in oral culture -- and
        even for its power in contemporary culture, for we
        (post)moderns have far better long-term memories than
        we realize.

        If we can get things into our long-term memories, we
        can do a pretty good job of recalling them. I think
        that the good memory power of oral cultures is
        primarily long-term memory. If people who are trained
        to focus upon remembering are repeatedly presented
        with oral materials, then I think that they will
        eventually come to remember it very well -- even to
        its minute details.

        But -- to iterate -- concerning some claims that have
        been made about memory in oral culture:

        "I would be very surprised if it were common for
        people to remember every word spoken in a lengthy
        discourse upon a single occasion."

        I hope that I have now been better understood.

        Jeffery Hodges

        =====
        Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
        Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
        447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
        Yangsandong 411
        South Korea

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      • Staley, Jeffrey
        ... memory in antiquity. Studies have also shown that remembering in primary oral cultures is not word for word --even when those people doing the
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 4, 2001
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          Jeffrey Staley writes:

          >Another note of skepticism about some of the claims being made concerning
          memory in antiquity.

          Studies have also shown that "remembering" in primary oral cultures is not
          "word for word"--even when those people doing the "remembering think it is.
          When tape recordings are made of different performances, the "recitations"
          are rarely, if ever, exactly the same. I'm not sure if this was Lord's
          analysis, or some more recent study. Tom Thatcher may help us here.

          Jeff
        • John N. Lupia
          To List: John Dominic Crossan, The birth of Christianity : discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus (San Francisco:
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 4, 2001
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            To List:

            John Dominic Crossan, The birth of Christianity : discovering
            what happened in the years immediately after the execution of
            Jesus (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), Part II
            (Chapters 3-6) on Memory and Orality; James D. G. Dunn,
            Jesus in Oral Memory: The Initial Stages of the Jesus Tradition;
            W. H. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel (Philadelphia:
            Fortress, 1983); W. J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The
            Technologizing of the Word (1982; London: Routledge, 1988); A.
            B. Lord, `The Gospels as Oral Traditional Literature', in W. O.
            Walker, ed., The Relationships Among the Gospels (San
            Antonio: Trinity University, 1978); etc, are not well informed on
            writing practices in the first century.

            As part of the discussion of the historical Jesus: concerning
            what he actually said or did, the methods used to record them
            become paramount. Ill informed opinions of the skeptics and
            cynics that rely exclusively on memory, oral culture and tradition,
            or mnemonic techniques for the transmission of Jesus' words
            and deeds find plenty of room to question the veracity of the
            Gospel texts.

            It has been erroneously assumed by several academic schools
            over the past few centuries that the Evangelists wrote from
            memory, a fact that cannot be substantiated and necessitates
            closing ones eyes to the historical realities of the currency of
            shorthand, an art that was already well over three hundred years
            in development and pervasive usage throughout the
            Graeco-Roman world.

            Notarii or tabellio (AGORAIOS and AGORONOMOS and
            SEMEIOGRAFOS or TAKUGRAFOS) were short-hand secretaries
            who could take dictation. Suetonius, Ennius, says that Quintus
            Ennius (239-169 BC) introduced notae, probably since he is
            regarded by the Romans as the father of Roman literature.
            However, cursive hand script for speed was used in Athens in
            B.C. 284, a century before Ennius' Aetolian campaign. So,
            shorthand was in wide usage throughout the Hellenistic world
            well before the Evangelists wrote their respective Gospels.
            Furthermore, Marcus Tullius Tiro, Cicero's amanuensis was one
            of many notarii noted to have contributed to the development of
            the art of stenography. He is credited with the invention of many
            shorthand symbols including the ampersand "&" sometimes
            called the "notae Tironianae" or "Tironian sign" a shorthand
            symbol of "et per se" in Latin where the "et" is emblemed in
            cursive script. This symbol substitution of words was found to
            be more efficacious than the older "arte brachygraphie".
            Brachygraphy was merely the omission of certain letters
            (examples employ ligatures, and in Christian scribes in nomina
            sacra) or the replacement of certain vowels or consonants by
            strokes which allowed for quicker writing and the text to fit into
            columns more conveniently. After Tiro we find shorthand or
            tachygraphy taught in Rome in various schools. Seneca claims
            to have complied or catalogued five thousand tachygraphic
            symbols. Suetonius, Vespasian, says that Vespasian could
            write shorthand with such dexterity and speed that he competed
            with scribes for sport. Actuarii was another name given to the
            notarii, short-hand clerks who recorded speeches in the senate,
            or who kept private accounts. To distinguish public from private
            records by notaries the Greeks used the phrase "EN AGUIA" as
            seen in P. Oxy, 722.12. Later, the title notarii became exclusive
            to the private secretaries of the emperor, and the title
            "exceptores" became that for short-hand clerks. "Librarii ab
            epistolis", sometimes called "ad manu", "a manu", and
            "amanuensis" were secretaries who took dictation for letters.
            The Berlin papyrus 8507 is a shorthand document of a
            senatorial speech during the reign of Claudius A.D. 41-54 which
            shows how widespread this art was by that date.

            Some early written accounts and speeches may have been
            recorded by apostles who acted as actuarii for the group. It is
            plausible that some Jewish disciples of Jesus had acted this
            way based on the Roman model of actuarii and notarii. These
            would have been stenographic transcriptions of two types of
            discourse: (1) acromatics (AKRAMAI), that is, private lectures
            given in "veiled language" only to his chosen disciples in the
            manner of Aristotle. For example, John 16,25 "I have spoken to
            you in veiled language" is part of a long acromatical discourse,
            which itself appears to be the "ipsissimum verbum Christum"
            recorded by a (St. John) scribal actuarii; (2) public preaching in
            the form of parables. In this regard the notion of the Gospels
            containing the "ipsissimum verbum Christum" is once again
            reopened.

            Cordially in Christ,
            John
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