Sunday, 15 May 2016
Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,
Tom Thatcher ed., SBL, 2014, page 31
Barry Schwartz, opening the conversation edited and organised by Tom Thatcher about Social Memory as applied to Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, makes an important claim:
If social memory is to remain stable, it must emerge from its indivual sources and be incorporated into a tradition, and that tradition must, in turn, become institutionalised. The memory of all historical figures is institutionlised by rituals, framing, keying, path-dependency, emergent oral tradition, sites of memory, life-course turning points and, where relevant, Scripture.
What one person, or even a group of people, remember(s) must be shared and become not only an agreed community memory, but sets of ritual and tradition. Within the Jewish world, that ritual might be when the Torah scroll is held up and the reader and the congregation together chant, "V'zot HaTorah ... This is the Torah, that Moshe placed before the Children of Israel, upon the command of the L-rd, by the hand of Moshe."
If these assertions, all constituents of social memory theory, bear any truth, then it is fair to concluded that such theory, in some slight but significant measure, illuminates the biblical texts as pathways to understanding the events and fugures described in them. Far from being annihilated by analytic history, as many scholars presently affirm, social memory, properly validated, is history's ultimate foundation.
Far from sceptics being able to claim that the Bible is nothing but the invention of a few who have fooled the majority into accepting muth and legend as truth,social memory theory allows the biblcal texts to be tested and validated as autgentic streams of social memory.