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Judy Redman Critiques Bauckham in JBL

April 27, 2010

I have had the most recent fascicle of JBL for a few weeks but I have just now gotten to reading it. Of particular interest to me was Judy Redman’s interaction with Richard Bauckham’s  work on eyewitnesses in the Gospels. I have found Bauckham’s thesis problematic for a few reasons though it seems to me that I know a number of people who find it convincing. Redman’s treatment is both interesting and engaging as she immerses herself in relevant psychological literature to examine the validity of Bauckham’s thesis using a multidisciplinary approach.

In her conclusion Redman find both points of contact with and divergence from Bauckham. She writes:

Psychological research into memory supports Bauckham’s contention that at least some of the differences attributed to redaction in fact arise from the normal processes of remembering, and that the editing may have contributed far less to the content than the form critics suggest. Taking this seriously suggests that the Gospels were more spontaneous expressions of theologies that already existed within the communities out of which they arose than documents designed to shape community theology.

In contrast, psychological research into eyewitness testimony makes it clear that Bauckham’s work in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses does not provide strong evidence for the historical accuracy of the content of the Gospels. Although it is clear that transmission of stories in oral cultures is remarkably accurate once a community decides that something should be preserved and skilled oral tradents are entrusted with the task of preserving it, many of the inaccuracies in eyewitness memory come into being within hours, days, or weeks of the event being witnessed (p. 196).

I think Judy is on to something here. Do check out her article when you have the chance.

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