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IOSOT 2022

“Our Fathers Have Told Us …” (Psalm 78:3): Remembered History in the Psalms Reflected through the Centuries

Susanne Gillmayr-Bucher (Linz)


A few psalms replace the experiences of the praying persons’ voice with memories of the history of the people of Israel. The psalms use stories known from the narrative texts of the Bible in various selections and present them from different perspectives to unfold the communicative intention of the respective psalm – be it praise and thanksgiving, confession of guilt or instruction. In this way, the addressees are invited to understand their own time in the context of remembered history; furthermore, the past is reinterpreted in the light of current issues. This mutual process of understanding the past and the present continues beyond the biblical texts in their reception history, whereby the explicit historical memories often present a special challenge for later recipients. Using selected examples of the history of reception, I will show how the memory of Israel’s history in the Psalms were taken up in different contexts and which identification or demarcation strategies were developed; in addition, I will also pay attention to how the psalms’ perspective on history changed the understanding of the remembered history.