Ronald Hendel v. Philip Davies: The 2011 ‘Cultural Memory’ Smackdown

That’s an overly dramatic title for a post isn’t it?!  But if it draws your attention to this newly published essay in Bible and Interpretation, it has done its duty.

Personally I’m still pondering all the cultural memory stuff that’s been flying off the presses the last few years and I haven’t made up my mind about it.  You may have, or you may have not.  Either way, you’ll doubtless be interested in expanding your horizons by reading Hendel’s piece.  Especially the conclusion-

I disagree with Philip’s contention that the concept of cultural memory supports what he calls “the minimalist option” in biblical studies.  It does no such thing. The minimalist/maximalist dichotomy, as far as I understand it, becomes obsolete in light of the concept of cultural memory. The truth (if I may use this word in its everyday sense) is more complicated than this dichotomy allows. The pursuit of cultural memory in biblical studies has the potential to complicate and reconfigure many dubious dichotomies in our field, including maximalism/minimalism, history/fiction, diachronic/synchronic, and perhaps even postmodern/modern. And as Philip and I agree (to my pleasure), it also implicates post-biblical and modern memories of the biblical past, and how such memories are revitalized and contested in each generation.

I hope Philip starts round two.

UPDATE:  Philip responds-

I am a fan of Ron, who is a scholar and a gentleman, and I enjoy both agreeing and disagreeing with him. All I think I want to say in response is that all stories about the past are fiction in the sense of being constructed as narratives (even our modern critical reconstructions). But I agree (and have made the point in print) that in evaluating memories we need to know as much as we can about the facts of the past, otherwise our analysis and understanding of these memories cannot be complete. If, as it may well be, I have misrepresented myself on these issues, I hope this reply makes clear.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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