Transactive Memory and the Bible

Transactive Memory and Couples
Many times a new concept appears in the scientific literature, and when we look at it, we see that it is something that the Bible has already described. A recent example of this is a concept given by social psychologist Daniel Wegner called transactive memory.

Transactive memory is defined as “a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information.” Wegner explains this concept in this way: “People in close relationships know many things about each other’s memories. One partner may not know where to find candles around the house, for instance, but may still be able to find them in a blackout by asking the other partner where the candles are. Each partner can enjoy the benefits of the pair’s memory by assuming responsibility for remembering just those items that fall clearly to him or to her and then by attending to the categories of knowledge encoded by the partner so that items within those categories can be retrieved from the partner when they are needed. Such knowledge of one another’s memory areas takes time and practice to develop, but the result is that close couples have an implicit structure to carrying out the pair’s memory tasks.”

Psychologists are using this concept to help people dealing with the death of a spouse. As a person who has gone through that experience, I can testify that when your wife of 49 years dies, a part of you seems to die too. Panic attacks after the death of a spouse are common, and that is when you suddenly are faced with having lost a large part of your memory.

Bible readers will recognize this “new” concept. In the Old Testament, a variety of transactive memory devices were commanded and put in place by God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 12, 20; Exodus 13:14; and Joshua 4:6 are all cases where devices such as writing history on door posts were given to help remember the past and teach children the value of a culture. The various feasts of Israel in Exodus 23:15-16 were transactive memory devices.

In the New Testament, the congregation was developed as a transactive device. Acts 2:41-47 shows transactive memory helping the first century Church. James 5:14-16 described congregational conduct in various circumstances in life. The Bible itself is a transactive device as it is described in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

One of the problems with megachurches is that much of the transactive memory value of the local congregation is lost. It is hard to pray for or to encourage someone you don’t know. Death is of little meaning if you don’t know the person. The congregational conduct discussed in Hebrews 10:22 is difficult in a huge congregation.

When Jesus prayed for unity, He gave us something that can sustain us in every stage of life and in every crisis. We defeat that blessing when we make entertainment the focus of our worship and when we don’t build relationships that allow transactive memory to function. Transactive memory may be new to the world of social psychology, but it is as old as the Bible itself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheist Book: A Bogus Claim of Scholarship

The Bible
The Bible
I try to read a book every week, and people help me in that attempt by sending me books on about every topic that you can imagine. Atheists and religious fanatics send me their books to attempt to convert me to their view or at least to get into the “Book of the Month” review in our quarterly publication. Recently a Christian and an atheist both sent me a copy of the same book titled Fountain of Fairytales and subtitled A Scholarly Romp Through the Old Testament. This book is an attempt to discredit the Bible and is a product of The Barnes Review. Begun by Harry Elmer Barnes, the Barnes Review claims that their mission is: “To separate historical truth from propaganda and to bring history into accord with the facts.” The problem with this group is not their mission, but the fact that their view of the facts means to make sure the views stated support secular humanism and atheism. Fairness, accuracy, and credibility of sources is not a part of their mission, and this book shows that rather clearly.

One giveaway as to the intent of this book is shown in the bibliography, author, pictures, and structure of the book. Major misunderstandings of the Bible are clear before one even starts to read the book itself. The story of Jonah is titled “Jonah’s Whale” when even atheists should know the Hebrew word doesn’t say whale. It says “fish” and whales are not fish. Pictures are lifted from twentieth-century Hollywood productions and denominational publications. The bibliography is very short and almost totally dominated by atheist and secular humanist writers. The author John Tiffany is not a scholar and has no advanced degrees or recognition from the academic community. His credit line says he did graduate work in biology and studied law but apparently didn’t graduate in these areas and has done no peer review work.

The tone of the book is one of ridicule, denigration, and sarcasm. There are no footnotes and documentation is marginal at best. In some cases deliberate misrepresentation is clear. One example is the “contradiction” between, Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 10:6. Numbers says Aaron died and was buried at Mount Hor and Deuteronomy says Aaron died and was buried at Moserah. This is cited as a discrepancy in the Bible. Moserah is the area where Mount Hor is located. There are a large number of similar misrepresentations in the book. We wrote an article in our printed journal about misrepresenting the facts of the Old Testament titled “Maligning God in Ignorance” dealing with some of these issues. It was published in the January/February 2009 issue page 7 and you can read it online at

This is not a book review because the scholarship is so shabby and the bias and tone are so negative and abusive that we won’t waste space reviewing it. We do, however, want readers to be aware that this kind of literature is out there. We must be prepared to “give an answer of the reason of the hope that is within us to everyone who asks” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2017