TH6317 The Interpretation of the History of Israel

Historical Psalms


Read the Paper Guide on “Research.”

Plan to identify some bibliography by February 7.


Major sources

Major themes

Vocabulary Used by Buster

A term borrowed from architecture for what a form/sturcture can do (without presuming it will be done or is the primary purpose of the form/structure). For example, a garage can afford (allow, create opportunity for) parking or storage (p. 12).
A culturally constructed pattern of thinking (p. 19). Schemas are dynamic rather than static, generative but restrictive, and contain an abbreviated, replicable narrative (p. 40).
It is a coincidence that the English word “re-member” looks like it could mean “restoring membership.” Nevertheless, commemorative rituals and memorial objects do function to define and teach group identity, both inclusion and exclusion.
Form (of texts)
The observable features and structures preserved in a text itself without speculative reconstruction.
1. That which is borrowed to facilitate communication; structures that a speaker/author presumes a hearer/reader will already be familiar with
2. In contrast to form, a broader constellation that includes form together with meaning, social location, and function (Gunkel was interested in how form and genre correlate, Buster is interested in decorrelating them)
3. Some use the term to mean classification or taxonomy, but I think that is a counter-productive misunderstanding
Sitz im Leben
(German) Setting in life, occassion, social location
Traditional (from Hebrew). The Masoretic Text is the Hebrew text preserved as biblical in Judaism as it survived, as opposed to texts preserved by Christians or the desert.
The Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek, often abbreviated with the roman numerals LXX, from the legend that seventy-two elders independently arrived at identical translations
An archaeological site and series of caves near the Dead Sea where many (not all) Dead Sea Scrolls were found
Terms and categories used within a social group
Terms and categories used by outside observers

Memory Studies

Communicative Memory
“memory that is supported through contact with living bearers of memory. It requires no specialists and survives intact for only a limited time. This memory spans a few generations at maximum.” (Buster on Assman)
Cultural Memory
“body of reusable texts, images, and rituals, specific to each society and epoch, whose ‘cultivation’ serves to stabilize and convey that society’s self-image.” (Assman)
Collective Memory
Schwartz defines “collective memory” as “the distribution throughout society of beliefs, feelings, moral judgments, and knowledge about the past.” That is, collective memory is what a particular group, taken as a whole, can generally be expected to know about the past.
Commemoration, on the other hand, has to do with “practices and artefacts” mobilized by social groups to “represent the past to themselves and to others.” It constitutes the representative acts that societies undertake to preserve and publicly present the past. The study of commemoration, therefore, includes an analysis of what is remembered, but it also pays special attention to how it is remembered, to the material form and public strategies that accompany communal acts of memory.
Functional Memory / Usable Past
consists of a limited repertoire of knowledge concerning national events and key symbols that is shared within a community. This repertoire is “usable” because it is easily shared and understood, analogous to a shared vocabulary of historical language. As they are used, referenced, and rereferenced, then, key events accrue symbolic meaning. One of the roles of collective agents, such as nations, is to create for themselves such a functional collective memory “through which they adapt a certain version of the past and define their goals for the future.” The group creates a shared base of knowledge through education (formal or informal) in this memory to establish a shared understanding of key national events and their symbolic significance.
the historical summaries are brief and thus easily repeatable, are often framed with speech language, and in narrative texts, are situated between a speaking group and an audience who interacts with the material in some way (p. 53).

Psalm 78

Introduction, mashal


Strikingly present

Strikingly absent

Identity formation, parents and children, those who forget and those who remember

Psalm 135

Introduction, form, and setting

Strikingly present

Strikingly absent

Social constructions


What is the message to a non-Israelite at the temple?

Psalm 136

Introduction, antiphon, repitition

Strikingly present

Strikingly absent


Psalm 105

Introduction, audience

Strikingly present

Strikingly absent


Psalm 106


Strikingly present

Strikingly absent



Further Reading: Buster, “Introduction,” in Remembering the Story of Israel, pp. 1-55.