Our first faculty colloquium of the fall semester introduced the work of Daniel Fisher, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who is completing a dissertation entitled “Memories of the Ark: Cultural Memory, Material Culture, and the Construction of the Past in Biblical Societies.”
Fisher outlined the fascinating cultural history of the Ark, from its origins in the Biblical text as the movable throne of the Lord, to its function as a vessel to hold the tablets of the covenant, to its placement in the tent of meeting, to its ultimate loss. Fisher’s research charts the course of the Ark of the Covenant as its values change over time in response to different communal values or communal needs and, in so doing, examines how people understand themselves in terms of material objects and how the values placed on objects reveal how a community interprets its past and its desires for the future.
Fisher showed that by reimagining the Ark, Biblical writers reimagined themselves and their people—conveying through the Ark different visions for Israel’s society and religious culture. Deuteronomy re-formed the Ark as a symbol for the law, around which its writers argue Israel should live. Priestly writings in Exodus and Leviticus associate the Ark with the Tent of Meeting and their ritual system, which they offered to govern all aspects of life. The ideas and values these Biblical writers associate with the Ark are at times innovative. By associating them with the Ark, Biblical writers allow them to share in the Ark’s perceived authenticity, reality, and power. The Ark helps these Biblical writers make their visions real.
Daniel Fisher, who has held fellowships at the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem, the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, and at the Bancroft Library’s Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, holds a C.Phil. from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies from Vanderbilt University, and a B.A. (Honors) in religious studies from McGill University. His presentation at the faculty colloquium proved to be enlightening and engaging. We look forward to following his scholarly research in the future.
Please join us for our next colloquium, scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 at 1:00 PM in Dodd 162 when Professor Barry Kosmin from Trinity College presents “Anti-Semitism and today’s campus environment: methodological challenges and substantive findings.”