In fact, no he does not have a "beef" even "to a lesser extent" with Allison (as the short rejoinder makes clear), nor does he come close to placing Allison in the same category as McIver (in any way other than an interest in the gist of Jesus). And nor, does he refer to Le Donne as "conservative." And no less, Le Donne is complimented and set apart from the other repeatedly in the article. Sorry folks, no irony here.
Zeb, thanks for checking in. To provide a bit of context, I'll paste your abstract:
Crook Abstractand mine:
Memory theory is being used, if not explicitly to buttress the reliability of the gospel portraits of Jesus, to do so implicitly by shifting the search away from the ipsissima verba Jesu toward the memory of Jesus. Rather than argue about what Jesus did not or did not say – the reliability wars – scholars now sidestep the issue by arguing that memory is inherently reliable in a broad or general way. Thus, the gospels are reliable not at the level of detail, but at the level of broad memory, impact, or gist. In this paper I argue that such optimism can only come by selectively quoting the troubling work of memory theorists, and by ignoring the full implications of memory theory.
Le Donne AbstractI do thank you for the kind words you say about my book in your essay. It does seem, however, that throughout your essay you refer to "conservative scholars" generally. As I am your chief conversation partner in this essay and you take issue with my use of the word "reliable", I could not help but understand the phrase "reliability wars" to be suggestive of warring camps. I would be interested to know: who are these warring camps in your estimation?
Zeba Crook argues that there is an emerging consensus that the Gospels are reliable historical narratives by those to have applied ‘memory’ theories to historical Jesus research. Crook argues that this emerging consensus betrays a selective reading of research done on ‘memory distortion’ in interdisciplinary study. This essay demonstrates that Crook misunderstands and misrepresents social memory theory both in and outside Jesus studies. A better understanding would have properly represented the spectrum from theoretical ‘presentism’ to ‘continuitism’ in memory applications/adaptations.
As to your treatment of Dale Allison, I'll stick by what I wrote (pp.90-92) in the essay:
In addition to injudicious selectivity in his works cited, Crook only selectively represents the voices that he engages. I will demonstrate this by using two recent quotations from Dale Allison. I use these quotations because Allison is listed by Crook as a scholar who has used ‘memory theory’ to support the idea that a general impression was left by Jesus and that this impression is probably represented in the Gospels. Crook suggests that Allison might be unwittingly contributing to ‘the emerging sense of optimism’ among Jesus scholars. In Crook’s summation, Allison argues that it is ‘reasonable to think that there were some reliable memories of Jesus’ mission and character’. Crook then suggests that Allison is leaning too hard toward the ‘reliability’ of the Gospels. Compare Crook’s summation with the opening line of Constructing Jesus: ‘The frailty of human memory should distress all who quest for the so-called historical Jesus’. Allison spends the next ten pages enumerating and detailing the nature of human frailty. This heavily footnoted lament cannot be reproduced here, but in a recent publication Allison summarizes:
[T]he quest for the historical Jesus is essentially an endeavor to recover accurate human memories. So I wondered what I would learn if I spent some time in the recent scientific literature on cognition. When I finally found time to undertake the task, I quickly became dismayed. Human witnesses, it turns out, habitually misremember. Memory is reconstructive as well as reproductive and so involves imagination. It deteriorates over time. It is typically a function of self-interest. It is sculpted by narrative conventions. It regularly moves events forward and backward in time. It is altered by post-event information. And it recurrently often assimilates to present circumstances… The facts, if one looks into them with an open mind, are sobering, and I take them to be of considerable importance for our discipline. They require for instance some skepticism about our sources, none of which can be immune to the systematic sins of human memory… Another upshot of the fuzzy nature of human memory is that we have even more reason to be skeptical of the simplistic distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic.
If, as Crook suggests, Allison returns to an optimistic position in Constructing Jesus, this optimism is so understated that it has been lost on almost every reviewer. Crook suggests that Allison would do better to consider the possibility that the Gospels are entirely fabricated. But consider this statement by Allison toward the end of Constructing Jesus:
Have we made an analogous mistake with the Gospels, failing to get their genre right?… [P]erhaps light fiction is also the category into which we should place the Gospels. In recent years, several scholars have called attention to the possible affiliations between the canonical Gospels and Hellenistic romance, or between the Gospels and Homer. It is perhaps too early to know whether this recent take on the Gospels will lead to a dead end or to a new world of profitable discourse. In the latter case, we will have to rethink much, and perhaps the proposition that the Gospels contain in part or in whole ‘purely metaphorical narratives’ will become not just credible but blindingly obvious.
So, contrary to Crook’s suggestion, Allison does indeed consider the possibility that the Gospels are entirely fictitious, but Crook gives us no indication of this. In this section, Allison cites Axel Knauf, Richard I. Pervo, Dennis MacDonald, Clare K. Rothschild, Thomas E. Phillips and Olav Sandnes. One does not need to agree with Allison’s suggestion to recognize his judicious consideration of this topic. In contrast, Crook’s comparative treatments of the Ned Ludd tradition and the ritual abuse media coverage in the 1980s cite none of these works. Crook puts forth his thesis citing only Arthur Droge in a single publication. Is no other New Testament scholar worth noting? More to the point of this section, Crook fails to mention Allison’s contribution to this topic and then suggests that Allison might not have considered it. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether or not Allison’s view concerning the reliability of memory and the content of the Gospels is overly optimistic. But I think not. Crook has cast Allison in an optimistic light by association and by ignoring the gist of Allison’s argument. Crook’s selectivity cannot be considered judicious in this case.