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Book: The Hunt for Ancient Israel

Chapter: Cultural Memory, Identity, and the Past

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41654


The notion of 'cultural memory' or 'social memory' has been commonplace in biblical research since about 2008, when an EABS research group bearing that name had its first meeting. Central in the use and development of that concept was Ehud Ben Zvi. A number of scholars, like Philip R. Davies and Niels P. Lemche, adopted the term and included it in their study of biblical historiography. Mostly, people refer to Jan Assmann, but a closer look shows that the term is not quite clear in his writings. There is the impression that research in the wake of Assmann’s work maintained this lack of clarity. Accordingly, the concept is still being used, not only in works on historiographic texts in the Bible, but also on prophetic and poetic texts, often combined with re-use of older texts in late 2nd Temple texts. The objective of this contribution is to assess the latest development of “cultural/social memory-studies” and especially its relation to other terms and concepts, some of them now becoming important in works related to biblical studies, like utopia/dystopia, the older term "charter myth," and concepts like ‘trauma literature’ (a notion also studied by D. Edelman). Deuteronomy is a text central to Diana Edelman's latest research. Relating the assessment of the present situation in memory-studies to Deuteronomy (and the Exodus story) should also include a discussion of its relation to didactical terms used in that book and current research about them. Some years ago (in FS E. Ben Zvi), I discussed his concept of social memory. As Ben Zvi and Edelman have collaborated on several publications, including also work on the book of Deuteronomy, it is time to see how the concept has developed and its implication for that book (and the Exodus story).

Chapter Contributors

  • Kåre Berge ( - kberge) 'NLA University College'