Social Memory and Social Identity in the Study of Early Judaism and Early Christianity

Hakola, Raimo, Jutta Maria Jokiranta and Samuel Byrskog, editors

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016

Find the Review by Jonathan Draper in the RBL 11/2017 which concludes: 

“… the exploration of theories of social memory and social identity is a relatively new but growing enterprise … Hence this volume of twelve studies applying the interlocking theories from a variety of perspectives to a variety of texts is a welcome addition to the work long advocated by scholars in the field of oral studies, especially by Werner Kelber … In the last of the studies on social memory, Dan Nässelqvist’s “The Oral Delivery of New Testament Writings” challenges an emerging consensus of recent studies of orality and oral performance in the New Testament that most or all of the early Christian texts were memorized and performed…”

Description: The concepts of social memory and social identity have been increasingly used in the study of ancient Jewish and Christian sources. In this collection of articles, international specialists apply interdisciplinary methodology related to these concepts to early Jewish and Christian sources. The volume offers an up-to-date presentation of how social memory studies and socio-psychological identity approach have been used in the study of Biblical and related literature. The articles examine how Jewish and Christian sources participate in the processes of collective recollection and in this way contribute to the construction of distinctive social identities.

The writers demonstrate the benefits of the use of interdisciplinary methodologies in the study of early Judaism and Christianity but also discuss potential problems that have emerged when modern theories have been applied to ancient material.In the first part of the book, scholars apply social, collective and cultural memory approaches to early Christian sources. The articles discuss philosophical aspects of memory, the formation of gospel traditions in the light of memory studies, the role of eyewitness testimony in canonical and non-canonical Christian sources and the oral delivery of New Testament writings in relation to ancient delivery practices. Part two applies the social identity approach to various Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament writings. The writers analyse the role marriage, deviant behaviour, and wisdom traditions in the construction of identity in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other topics include forgiveness in the Gospel of Matthew, the imagined community in the Gospel John, the use of the past in Paul’s Epistles and the relationship between the covenant and collective identity in the Epistle to the Hebrews and the First Epistle of Clement.