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BOOK NOTICE: Sandra Huebenthal, Reading Mark’s Gospel as a Text from Collective Memory (Eerdmans, 2020)

I was very happy to finally get my hands on Sandra Huebenthal’s work, Reading Mark as a Text from Collective Memory (Eerdmans, 2020). This English translation of Huebenthal’s German scholarship will help ensure that her work gets a wider hearing.

New Testament studies has become increasingly interested in memory research and this book represents an important contribution in that vein.

The Eerdmans’ website has the following to say about the book:

Drawing on modern explorations of social memory in different cultural contexts, Sandra Huebenthal presents a model for reading biblical texts as collective memories. Using Mark’s Gospel as an example, she demonstrates that Mark is a text evolving from collective narrative memory based on recollections of Jesus’s life and teachings. Huebenthal investigates the principles and structures of how groups remember and how their memory is structured and presented. In the case of Mark’s Gospel this includes examining which image of Jesus, as well as which self-image, this text as memory constructs. Reading Mark’s Gospel as a Text from Collective Memory does not serve as a key to unlock questions about the historical Jesus, but to examine memories about him within a particular community of remembrance and narration.

Reading Mark’s Gospel as a Text from Collective Memory will stimulate discussion about the methods employed in biblical research and serve as an invaluable resource for the interpretation of Mark.

The Table of Contents looks like this:

Table of Contents

1. Exegetical Kaleidoscope: Images of the Genesis and Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel

Part I: Mark’s Gospel and Social Memory Theory

2. Social Recollection: The Construction of Memory Texts in Collective Memories
3. Mark’s Gospel as a Memory Text

Part II: Jesus Memories and Identity Formation in Mark 6:7–8:2

4. Structure of the Text and Its Orientation toward Available Patterns
5. Guiding Perspective
6. Transparency for the Community of Narration and Invitation to Familiarize
7. Prospects

Epilogue

The back of the book features compelling endorsements from some of my favorite scholars: Helen K. Bond, Rafael Rodríguez, Samuel Byrskog, and Werner Kelber.

Their praise for the book does not appear on the publisher’s website or on Amazon, so I thought I would include them here:

“This translation of Sandra Huebenthal’s important work offers the English-language reader the chance to engage with her groundbreaking work on Mark as an artifact of collective memory, a narrative of commemoration and testimony that strengthened its readers’ sense of self-identity. Written with clarity and perception, this is a book that no Markan scholar will want to ignore.”

–Helen K. Bond, University of Edinburgh

“In Reading Mark’s Gospel as a Text from Collective Memory, Sandra Huebenthal turns her focus from Jesus as a figure from the past to the Gospel of Mark as a commemorative text, a product and example of collective memory. She recalibrates factors that are too often treated as mutually exclusive options (collective or individual, story or history, diachronic or synchronic, etc.) and situates Mark within the creative tension between these and other poles.”

–Rafael Rodríguez, Johnson University

“In this book Professor Huebenthal demonstrates her exceptional theoretical awareness and brings scholarship a significant step forward by challenging the bewildering outburst of memory studies to develop a more precise terminology and ideology of memory. In her own way, she paves the way for liberating contemporary memory studies from its occupation with the historical Jesus and opens up new possibilities for grasping the significance of what it meant to commemorate narratively the image of Jesus from the past. Needless to say, this study raises crucial hermeneutical issues concerning how to understand the presence of the past in early Christianity.”

–Samuel Byrskog, Lund University, Sweeden

“Huebenthal’s (re)introduction of memory and orality rewards readers with a host of fresh insights into the history of gospel studies, the Gospel of Mark, and the gospel’s social environment and formation, and it invites them to raise entirely new questions.”

–Werner H. Kelber, from the Foreword

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