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Re: Memory

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  • 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 1 of 6 , Dec 4, 2001
      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

      Cordially in Christ,
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