Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doctor Who and the Jesus Tradition

OK, I admit it.  Mention Doctor Who alongside the Jesus tradition and you will drag me in.  What Judy (Doctor Who as a test case for human memory?) and James forget, though, is that the doctor could help us out with the Jesus tradition, or at least what happened at the first Easter. 2009's "Planet of the Dead" made it clear that the doctor was there at the first Easter (and isn't it odd seeing David Tennant again, as the tenth doctor? Only so many months ago and already it feels like ancient history). If only he had not got interrupted. The relevant bit of dialogue is about four and a half minutes in:

While we are being a little frivolous, I might add that I also brought up Doctor Who in this context to the following effect back in December 2008 (More SBL Dating discussions).  This was in reaction to April DeConick's discussion about the importance of contemporary memory experiments with undergraduate students recounting materials in English:
I sympathize with the desire for memory experiments but I am highly sceptical of our ability to recreate the necessary conditions for providing useful information on the way that memory worked in the first century. As I mentioned in the session, one of my favourite television programmes is Doctor Who, and in a recent episode, the doctor and Donna went to Pompei in 79. I would have loved to have joined them and to conduct some experiments there. But as I also mentioned in the session, there are indeed useful experiments that we can do, using the texts that we have. As some of my readers will know, I have been an advocate for developing tests on Synoptic (and other related) theories with a view to seeing whether they work or not. Given our current state of knowledge, and tools available, serious work on the ancient texts we have is preferable to experiments on our contemporaries.
What James McGrath's and Judy Redman's posts provide, though, is a reminder of the importance of the interpretative community in the discussion and remembering of key materials, the fan community in Doctor Who, the first tradents in early Christianity. The tough thing with the comparison, though, is the cultural difference between a community that can check their facts via the DVD collection and a community whose only major consultative process is to remind themselves of what they think they know by looking at the Hebrew Scriptures and talking.

Update (01.37): here is a further thought.  Perhaps one could do experimental work on the lost episodes, i.e. the episodes of the first and second doctors' eras, in the 1960s, that were wiped by the BBC.  We could allow people to listen to reports on the episodes, to talk to those with memories of them, but not to listen to the surviving audio. That might provide an interesting analogy for the oral period, avoiding contamination from fresh viewings of the old episodes.


Holger said...

"If only he had not got interrupted." - You mean Jesus? Or David Tennant? I am confused now, what with all them parallels.

Mark Goodacre said...

Oh, I meant David Tennant's doctor getting interrupted when he was just about to tell us what happened at the first Easter.

Holger said...

:-) Pity, I was hoping for a major theological insight. You know, your next book: "Jesus, interrupted". Would sell well, that title, though Hollywood might have trademark on it already.

Loren Rosson III said...

Nice post, Mark. The oral experiment with the lost Troughton episodes would be kind of cool.

James F. McGrath said...

It seems are views are even closer than I realized! You propose using the lost episodes while I'm inclined to use Lost episodes. So close indeed! :)