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Re: Oral Hypothesis

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  • Tim Reynolds
    ... transmission of tradition take a look at Dom Crossan s recent The Birth of Christianity . He does a masterful job of assembling the evidence and shows
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 11, 1998
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      >>May I suggest that those interested in the function of memory and the
      transmission of tradition take a look at Dom Crossan's recent "The Birth
      of Christianity". He does a masterful job of assembling the evidence and
      shows quite conclusively the operation of memory.>>

      I quit Crossan after Cross That Spoke. I keep up with him in Time, Jesus devoured by scavenger dogs at the foot of the cross. But if you'll provide page numbers I'll check it out.

      Hermann Ebbinghaus, the modern locus classicus on verbal memory function, notes that "[v]ocabularies, discourses, and poems of any length cannot be learned by a single repetition even with the greatest concentration of attention on the part of an individual of very great ability. We don't yet know how long the catechetical readings were.

      Tendenz is built in. Sir Frederick Bartlett reported in 1932 that "English audiences, if asked to repeat Kwakiutl folk stories, altered details in ways that made the stories more British. Bartlett hypothesized that putting unfamiliar facts in familiar contexts aided their processing."


      "Middle- and working-class mothers of three-year-old children listened to a recording of a short essay, approximately four hundred words, comparing the relative wisdom and utility of a restrictive or a permissive mode of socialization, and then tried to remember as much of the essay as they could. More of the middle- than working-class mothers remembered more words from the argument that promoted restrictiveness as a desired regimen. One of the striking differences between the two groups of mothers involved a pair of sentences in the middle of the essay. One sentence noted that excessive permissiveness with a young child could produce an adolescent who would perform poorly in school, take drugs, and become a delinquent. Most of the middle-class mothers remembered this idea in great elaboration, and none distorted it. By contrast, fewer working-class mothers remembered this idea; and for those who did, over one third distorted the meaning of the passage. They stated in their recall that excessive restrictiveness would predispose a child to acquire these undesirable qualities." (Kagan et al., in preparation)

      I don't suppose this would much affect Mark if he had indeed been Peter's simultaneous interpreter. (And why not? Revs. Moon and Gene Scott have them, for a start.) It apparently affects the Hamlet pirate, whose eschatological views emerge in his version.

      We're talking several functions of memory here, operating in different situations ("he said" versus "he used to say") over periods of time from seconds (simultaneous translation) through hours (aural pirates) to decades (evangelists and their informants).

      Tertium datur,

      Tim Reynolds>

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