Memory, Method, and Text 


Social memory theory and related sociological and/or cultural anthropological studies have become important new players in the exegetical discourse. The research done in the last decades has proven that the application of memory studies can indeed enhance both the understanding of biblical texts and contexts and the reception of those texts and contexts in the first two centuries. One of the most important and controversial question of the current debate is how memory theory achieves this. As social memory theory is not a method but rather a hermeneutical lens it is difficult to speak of a memory approach . The research unit aims both to explore how social memory theory can inform methodology and develop tools for reading and understanding Early Christian traditions and texts based on the interdisciplinary theoretical work of social scientists like Maurice Halbwachs and experts for particular cultures like Jan Assmann (Egyptology) or Aleida Assmann (Anglistics) and others. The goal is to move beyond traditional historical questions that aim to uncover earlier sources and reconstruct the past to an understanding of these traditions and texts as diverse processes of receptions of the past among groups of Jesus followers within their different cultural contexts. The sessions of the research unit will begin with a general survey of the state of the discussion and its theoretical foundations and then focus on the development of exegetical tools and their application to Early Christian texts, both biblical and non-biblical, with a special focus on liturgy and ritual. 



Memory Studies, Social Memory Theory, Early Christianity, Hermeneutics, Methodology, Identity, Memory and Community, Orality

Current Term:



Christian Handschuh
University of Passau

Kyle Parsons

Charles University

Sandra Huebenthal
University of Passau

Member Area

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

In the fifth year of our research unit, we will continue our examination of how memory can be methodologically applied to both canonical and non-canonical texts. We are particularly interested in exploring the different approaches and methodologies from the field of memory studies that shed light on the memory dynamics of the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Septuagint, non-canonical Second Temple Jewish, and early Christian literature. The goal of this section is to provide a platform for scholars to present their research on memory and its methodological applications to these texts. We aim to cultivate a dynamic and collaborative environment for researchers to share their ideas and engage in fruitful discussions. We welcome papers that delve into the following topics:

  1. Memory applications to biblical texts: How does memory shape our understanding of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, and New Testament texts? What can memory studies tell us about the transmission and reception of biblical narratives? How do biblical texts themselves reflect and engage with collective memory?
  2. Memory applications to extra-biblical texts: What insights can memory studies provide into non-canonical Second Temple Jewish and early Christian literature? How does memory shape the formation of these texts and influence their reception? What can we learn about the social and cultural context of these texts through the lens of memory?

The section will be divided into four sessions. The initial session will center on memory applications to biblical texts, while the second session will focus on memory applications to extra-biblical texts. The third session will involve a discussion that reflects on the papers presented in the section, aiming to compare the different ways memory is applied to texts both within and outside biblical studies. This will lead to a final session and discussion on future research directions in this field of study, as well as the future of this section.