Kåre Berge, Professor of Old Testament Studies, NLA University College, Bergen, The Interaction between Elite Culture and Popular Tradition in the Creation of the Pentateuch.

    This project deals with the production of “the Israelite Past” as a cultural memory of the Persian Yehud. Special attention is paid to the cultural significance of the so-called exodus tradition, and to the formation of Deuteronomy as a book.

    The scribal elite (the “literati”) who produced the Pentateuchal books drew from resources in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean and Near Orient culture. This appears in, e.g., notices about the invasions of other nations in Deuteronomy 1-3 – which are similar to Ancient Near Eastern royal reports on military campaigns – and in comprehensive concepts of, e.g., monotheism and the notion of a “book religion” as well. At the same time they made use of local traditions and appealed to some kind of “folk sentiment.” Resulting from this, the “Israelite” identity was created as a “middle ground” (R. White 1991), now presented in the Pentateuchal books. A problem that has not been very much investigated, however, is that this construct was an elite product, within a mainly illiterate culture. By focusing on the texts as “ethnic charter myths” for an ethnic or national identity in the Persian period, Berge investigates the relation between the elite construct and “the populace.” The project focuses on two issues: a) the role of the Exodus rituals (Pesah, Massot) in construction of ethnic identity, and b) “the book” in Deuteronomy as an object of ethnic didacticism.

    As a part of the LDG project, the project interprets certain central, biblical texts as the result of local-global negotiation in cultural identity-making, and their function in the relevant culture. The rationale of this project within the LDG agenda is that it deals with texts that have served as uncontested resources for sustaining identity on local as well as global ground (Judaism and Christian tradition). Thus, a study of these texts represents not only an example of the local-global problem; it also shows how central elements of Jewish-Christian religious tradition originated as “hybrid culture.”

    Finally, this project is a follow-up of Prof. Berge’s on-going studies that have resulted in a number of articles, such as:  "National Identity and Popular Sentiment in Genesis and Exodus" (2010), and “Is there a public teaching in Deuteronomy? Literacy, Utopia and Memory in Deuteronomy.”

Short CV

Kåre Berge, is Professor of Old Testament, NLA University College, Bergen and has had teaching experiences from MF School of Theology, Oslo; Aarhus University; Faculty of Theology, UiO. Dr. Berge co-founded the research centre “Bible and Cultural Memory”, Copenhagen University and was co-leader of the research program “Cultural memory in biblical exegesis” (European Association of Biblical Studies). He was visiting scholar at Vanderbilt University, USA (1991/2 and 1998/9) and is present participant of the University of Munich - University of Alberta Old Testament symposium (2011-2012. Dr. Berge has published on cultural memory studies in biblical literature and culture, and will visit LDG for shorter periods contributing his studies of the formation of ethnic and religious identity as mirrored in the biblical Pentateuch.