Original Research - Special Collection: Foundation subjects - Old and New Testament Studies

Matthew, memory theory and the New No Quest

Zeba Crook
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2716 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2716 | © 2014 Zeba Crook | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 May 2014 | Published: 20 November 2014

About the author(s)

Zeba Crook, Department of Religious Studies, Carleton University Ottawa, Canada; Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


This article explores the effects of cognitive and social memory theory on the quest for the historical Jesus. It is not the case that all memory is hopelessly unreliable, but it is the case that it commonly is. Memory distortion is disturbingly common, and much worse, there is no way to distinguish between memories of actual events and memories of invented events. The Gospel of Matthew was used to illustrate this very difficulty. This article also draws attention to the fact that although numerous criteria have been developed, refined and used extensively in order to distinguish between original Jesus material and later church material, those criteria have long been unsatisfactory, and most recently, because of the effects of thinking about memory theory and orality, have been revealed to be bankrupt. Since memory theory shows that people are unable to differentiate accurate memory from inaccurate and wholly invented memory, and since the traditional quest criteria do not accomplish what they were intended to, this article argues that scholarship about Jesus has been forced into a new no quest.




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