Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible

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According to an old tradition preserved in the Palestinian Targums, the Hebrew Bible is 'the Book of Memories.' The sacred past recalled in the Bible serves as a model and wellspring for the present. The remembered past, says Ronald Hendel, is the material with which biblical Israel constructed its identity as a people, a religion, and a culture. In Israel's formative years, these memories circulated orally in the context of family and tribe. Over time they came to be crystallized in various written texts. The Hebrew Bible is a vast compendium of writings, spanning a thousand-year period from roughly the twelfth to the second century BCE, and representing perhaps a small slice of the writings of that period. The texts are often overwritten by later texts, creating a complex pastiche of text, reinterpretation and commentary. The religion and culture of ancient Israel are expressed by these texts, and in no small part, also created by them, as various texts formulate new or altered conceptions of the sacred past. This book explores the interplay of culture, history, and memory in the Hebrew Bible, particularly in relation to issues of the formation and transformations of religious and ethnic identity. This accessibly written book (Hendel writes a column for the popular journal Bible Review) represents the mature thought of one of our leading scholars of the Hebrew Bible. It should be required reading for everyone in the field.