Then and Now
How the Bible Became Holy

How the Bible Became Holy

In this startling reinterpretation of biblical history, a leading scholar shows how the Bible became the sacred text it is today


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The Ein Gedi Scroll: What We Could Potentially, Maybe Learn

A bit over a month ago the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a stunning achievement: a burnt scroll found in excavations of the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi in 1970 has been partially deciphered using micro-CT technology.  It turns out to contain at least the beginning of the book of Leviticus and, after the Dead Sea...

Great Jewish Books: Second Time Around

Last year I taught an undergraduate class called “Great Jewish Books” and posted the syllabus here.  The course, I thought, went very well.  Nevertheless, since I am an inveterate tinkerer, I have tinkered with the syllabus for the upcoming semester.  In terms of readings, I switched the excerpts for both classic rabbinic texts and medieval...

Take That!

  I direct an online project called Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine (IIP).  The purpose of this project is to make accessible and searchable the many published inscriptions from this region that date from the sixth century BCE to the seventh century CE, in all languages and religions.  We have just entered an exciting  and intensive phase...

Is the Bible True? Should It Matter?

This was just published at Aeon Ideas.  I paste a copy below. Not really.  And not really. The truth is that there isn’t much, if any, historical accuracy in the early accounts in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  There are many reasons to doubt these early stories.  Internal to the Bible itself, the stories are peppered...

Love Is As Strong As Death

        Construction on campus caused me to detour the other day to an out of the way corner of the Green where a tower sits.  I had, of course, seen this tower before, but never close up and its (very well-locked) entrance.  The inscription above the door identifies it as the Carrie...

So You’re Going to College…

Over the years, I have offered scores of first-year students advice.  I have encouraged them to clarify their goals; to create long term plans; to think strategically about what they want to get out of the next four years; to explore intellectual interests outside of their comfort zones; to challenge themselves.  I have rarely encouraged...

Yale’s Betrayal

According to recent news reports, Yale University gave its former president, Richard Levin, a bonus of $8.5 million after his retirement.  Even in comparison to the stratospheric salaries and perks given to administrators in higher education, this payment stands out.  It appears to be the largest pay out ever to a university administrator, and not...

How the Bible Became Holy Syllabus

In order to make paperback edition of the book (just released last month!) more attractive for course adaptation, I have prepared a modifiable (.docx) syllabus structured around the course.  It can be downloaded here or from this page, which also contains other resources that would facilitate using the book as a teaching resource.

When the Center Does Not Hold

Centrifugal force, entropy, call it what you will, but life has a way of drifting.  All those good habits and intentions slowly, subtly, but inexorably begin to crumble, like the masonry on my porch.  Three times a year I usually find enough energy and mental space to step back, take stock of the widening gap...

Bad Prophecies

Prophets, according to the Hebrew Bible, cannot really afford to be wrong.  Deuteronomy 18:20 in fact singles out accurate prediction of the future as a necessary characteristic of the future.  Yet several of the prophets of ancient Israel – the very ones preserved in the Hebrew Bible (not to mention what must be assumed to...

Race, Religion, and Ethnicity in Antiquity: Zotero Group

Last semester I taught a graduate seminar on Race, Religion, and Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean (see here).  As a class project we began to compile a relevant bibliography and provide some minimal annotations.  That bibliography is on Zotero (as a public group) under the title RaceReligionEthnicityAntiquity (link here).  This is the first time I...

Wikipedia in the Classroom

I have, in the past, used class assignments involving Wikipedia.  These usually involved students identifying weaknesses in entries dealing with the subject of the class, making the changes in Wikipedia to remedy these weaknesses, and then tracking the entry to see if anybody else modifies or deletes their changes.  I always found these assignments to...