Jesus Tradition, Early Christian Memory, and Gospel Writing
The Long Search for the Authentic Source
Breaking a 200-year impasse on the origins of the gospels
Biblical scholars want to get to the roots of the gospels—the very earliest memories of Jesus and his world. Though scholars know about all the major concepts at work—Q, the Urgospel, priority—it seems like a definitive solution to the Synoptic problem is hopelessly unattainable. Why the impasse? And where do we go from here?
In Jesus Tradition, Early Christian Memory, and Gospel Writing, Alan Kirk guides us through the history of biblical scholars’ quest for the authentic source. Kirk reveals that outdated assumptions about ancient media realities have caused the past two centuries of academic deadlock. Using cutting-edge scholarship on orality, memory, and tradition formation, he shows how the origins of the gospels may be found in the memory practices of the earliest Jesus communities.
Jesus Tradition, Early Christian Memory, and Gospel Writing is an essential resource for scholars and students looking to better understand this complex and rapidly changing field.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
1. Written Gospel or Oral? Lessing, Herder, and the Road to Strauss
2. Tendenzkritik: Drifting Back to Mark
3. Finding Jesus in the Two Document Hypothesis: Holtzmann to Wernle
4. Form Criticism: A Copernican Revolution?
5. The Farrer Juggernaut: Is It Unstoppable?
6. The Primitive Community Reborn: The “Galilean Q People”
“Penned by the leading expert in the interface between orality and writing, Jesus Tradition, Early Christian Memory, and Gospel Writing is not only a meticulously attentive reading and an incisive critique of the history of scholarship on the relationship among the Synoptic Gospels. It is also a rereading of that history that engages recent insights into the cognitive aspects of reading and writing and the operation of memory and commemoration. Kirk exposes and exorcizes many of the ghosts that have troubled the history of the Synoptic problem and offers new ways forward. This is a landmark in scholarship on the gospels.”
—John S. Kloppenborg
University of Toronto
“By opening a fresh perspective on the Synoptic tradition, Kirk’s learned Forschungsgeschichte addresses the dire need for a media and memory history of ancient Christianity, with special regard to the composition and handing down of traditions within an oral-aural Mediterranean society. Reading the history of the Synoptic tradition as a history of cultural transformations is a long overdue eye-opener.”
“In this characteristically evenhanded and detailed study, Alan Kirk showcases his expertise in scribal composition and memory theory in order to probe the history of Synoptic problem scholarship for its media assumptions. Much of this scholarship, he shows, embodies ideas about authorship and media that unfortunately do not accord with ancient compositional techniques. But all is not lost: if we can situate the Synoptic Gospels in their proper ancient media realities, then we can restore them as key data for the cultural practices and animating memories of the early Jesus movement.”