Boston, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2002. Softbound. Octavo, paper covers, xx, 386 pp., bibliography, indexes. Very Good. Item #38597
Samuel Byrskog is Professor of New Testament and Hermeneutics at Göteborg University.
Samuel Byrskog employs models from the interdisciplinary field of oral history as presented by Paul Thompson, coupled with insights from cultural anthropology, in order to examine the interaction between the present and the past as the gospel tradition evolved. The ancient Greek and Roman historians, with their use of eyewitness testimony as sources to the past and as central elements in interpretive and narrativizing processes of the present, serve as the basis for unraveling culture-specific patterns of oral history, and thus for conceptualizing similar aspects during the development of the gospel tradition. Eyewitness testimonies played a central but varying role in early Christianity. They were transmitted in the matrix of discipleship, where verbal and behavioral traditions were passed on through acts of mimesis. The folkloristic notion of re-oralization explains how oral accounts regularly interacted with written texts, indicating a vivid and engaged relationship to the past as well as the semantic significance of oral communication and performance. Factual truth was essential but inseparable from interpreted truth during the course of investigation, transmission, and composition. The gospel tradition developed through a subtle interaction between the unique historic events of the past and the various circumstances of the present. The narrative and historical dimensions of a text cannot be separated, because the semantic codes of a text are often located in the culture and not in the text itself. The gospels are therefore the synthesis of history and story, intertwining the horizons of the past and of the present in their own right.