Monday, March 05, 2012

Bird's Forthcoming Book and a Limerick

Recently, Michael Bird announced that he is working on a new book, slated to be published next year: The Gospels of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (forthcoming with Eerdmans in 2013). I can't wait.

In the same post he included a link to an old (2005) article he wrote, "The Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Tradition: Moderate Evidence for a Conserving Force in Its Transmission," BBR 15.2 (2005): 161-85.

It's a great article and I highly recommend it. But there was one amusing moment that stands out it in my mind--I suppose that's his point. Indeed, this is why I love the guy: he's insightful and amusing all at the same time.

Bird is looking at the ways the Gospel tradition seems to use mnemonic devices such as parallelism and chiasmus that seem to facilitate the remembrance of Jesus' teaching. He writes:
The ability of students to retain the information they receive from a teacher is conditioned on the utility of the verbal form carrying the instruction as well as the capacity for repetition of the subject content. Riesner contends that up to 80% of material in the Gospels attributed to Jesus contains features of Hebrew poetry such as parallelism and chiasmus that constitute mnemonic devices [citing Riesner and Witherington]. Poetry with rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, and assonance probably has a greater chance of make a lasting cognitive impact on an audience than plain, uninflected discourse. From my own experience, I can recite, verbatim, an amusing limerick about the late C. H. Dodd that I learned from D. A. Carson several years ago. (Emphasis added)
The limerick is given in a footnote:
"There once was a man called Dodd,
   Who had a name that was exceedingly odd.
   He spelt, if you please,
   His name with three D’’s,
   When one is sufficient for God."
That's what I remember most from the article.

And that's the whole point he's trying to make, isn't it?

Can't wait for the new book. It's sure to be a gem.

1 comment:

Juan said...

Thanks for your article. I have a mnemonic devices blog and I think I'll make a reference to this article. I always use mnemonic devices to learn and I use it every time, so I’ve decided to start a blog about this.


Thank you,
John from Mnemonic Devices - The Revision Guy