Fortress Press

Memory and Covenant:The Role of Israel's and God's Memory in Sustaining the Deuteronomic and Priestly Covenants

Memory and Covenant

The Role of Israel's and God's Memory in Sustaining the Deuteronomic and Priestly Covenants

Barat Ellman (Author)


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Memory and Covenant combines a close reading of texts in the deuteronomic, priestly, and holiness traditions with analysis of ritual and scrutiny of the different terminology used in each tradition regarding memory. Ellman demonstrates that the exploration of the concept of memory is critical to understanding the overall cosmologies, theologies, and religious programs of these distinct traditions. All three regard memory as a vital element of religious practice and as the principal instrument of covenant fidelity—but in very different ways. Ellman shows that for the deuteronomic tradition, memory is an epistemological and pedagogical means for keeping Israel faithful to its God and God’s commandments, even when Israelites are far from the temple and its worship. The priestly tradition, however, understands that the covenant depends on God’s memory, which must be aroused by the sensory stimuli of the temple cult. The holiness school incorporates the priestly idea of sensory memory but places responsibility for remembering on Israel. A subsequent layer of priestly tradition revives the centrality of God’s memory within a thorough-going theology uniting temple worship with creation.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451465617
  • eBook ISBN 9781451469592
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 192
  • Emerging Scholars category Bible
  • Publication Date October 1, 2013


“Barat Ellman has produced an elegantly written and cogently argued study of the phenomenon of memory as it is manifest in the two main traditions of the Pentateuch, the Priestly and the Deuteronomic. Particularly valuable here are the ways in which Priestly and Deuteronomic conceptions of memory are thoroughly distinguished and the careful nuancing of the complex uses of memory—both Israel's and God's—that are found in the Priestly and related Holiness tradition. In this book full of fresh insights, Ellman truly establishes herself as a significant new voice in biblical studies—just the sort of researcher whose work the Fortress Press Emerging Scholar series seeks to promote.”
Susan Ackerman
Dartmouth College

“Barat Ellman’s book explores the meanings and functions of memory in biblical religion with theoretical sophistication and literary sensitivity. More than before is memory seen as integral to the religion of the Torah and its major themes. Though focused on the religious worldviews of the priestly and deuteronomic schools, the book takes virtually the entire Hebrew Bible into account. A very significant contribution to the study of biblical literature and religion.”
—Edward L. Greenstein
Bar-Ilan University

“Barat Ellman’s Memory and Covenant offers a superb analysis of key differences between Priestly and Deuteronomic traditions in the Pentateuch. Focusing on the understanding and role of memory in each tradition, she helps make sense of the place of ritual, intellect, and sense perception in each. Ellman’s work will lead readers to a deeper understanding of biblical religions and theologies in their complexity and diversity.”
David Kraemer
The Jewish Theological Seminary

“Dr. Ellman's groundbreaking approach combines detailed linguistic and literary analysis with broad synthetic models drawn from anthropology and psychology to penetrate the thought realm of biblical religion in a deeper manner than has hitherto been the case. She lucidly examines a key concept, memory, in terms of its functions and relationships in the entire theological structure of the Pentateuch. The contrast between the Deuteronomic and Priestly traditions sharpens the distinction between the types of theological patterning they represent. The result is a sophisticated modern understanding of biblical religion. This is an important work in the fields of history of religions, comparative religion and biblical thought, which can serve as a model for similar studies in the future.”
Stephen A. Geller
Jewish Theological Seminary