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«He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes and does not return» (Ps 78, 39)

The Theme of Memory and Forgetting in the Third Book of the Psalter (Pss 73-89)


Marco Pavan

Aimed at identifying the function of the aspects of remembering and forgetting in the Psalter, this opus seeks to offer a lexicographical synthesis of zkr and škḥ in the Psalter and an analysis of their function in Book III (Pss 73-89) and in Ps 78, text in which the notions of remembering and forgetting occupy a relevant role. By doing so, the detailed focus on a particular portion of the Book of Psalms makes it possible to highlight the importance of the theme of memory and that of forgetting in the whole Psalter, both from the point of view of the composition of its global message, and from the point of view of a focused re-reading of the traditions that have to do with the origins of Israel. For its readers the Psalter turns out to be a book about remembrance and for remembrance.
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Conclusion: Memory and forgetting in Book III of the Psalter


The analysis so far has highlighted, from various points of view, the presence of memory in Book III and, in particular, in Ps 78. Proceeding by successive focalisations on the base of the actual form of the texts examined, the motif with which we are concerned has been revealed, in all its complexity, a factor which cannot be passed over in the constitution of the message of Pss 73-89. At the end of the process, is it possible to assemble the data collected here into an overall view?

In order to attempt to offer a response to this question, we shall start from the concluding stage of the analysis of the previous chapters, Ps 78; this text, in fact, constitutes the heart and peak of our research from at least two points of view: it is placed in a central position both with regard to the Psalms of Asaph and to Book III as a whole; and it makes remembering one of the keys with which to read the history of Israel, both from the point of view of content and that of «structure», and it is alone in the Psalter in offering a programmatic reflection on this reality. The location in a central position of a psalm which is so strongly characterised by memory leads us to suppose that the latter represents one of the crucial elements of the drama which is developed in Pss 73-89.

On this basis, we shall develop our final summary...

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