Then and Now
Author Archive

Workshop Announcement

The program for the “Ancient Religion, Modern Technology” workshop is now posted. Please join us! http://tinyurl.com/3jpeun9

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit: An Unsolicited Opinion

I recently had the opportunity to to see the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at the Discovery Center in New York.  The exhibit is being advertised heavily (it seemed like there was a poster on every other block in Manhattan) and has been extensively reviewed.  The reviews have been generally positive, if at times puzzled.  In...

Hot Sexy Mama!

  We have dragged our children to art museums most of their lives, and perhaps only because they didn’t know any better they have been remarkably tolerant.  We would, of course, try to help them to stay engaged through tours, audio guides, bribes of candy forthcoming, and, of course, the many wonderful activities that museums...

More Musings on the Humanities

My friend Horace Taft, in his comment to a previous post, drew my attention to this TED video.  In it, Liz Coleman, the president of Bennington College, eloquently defends the value of the liberal arts.  She begins with a largely conventional critique of where the liberal arts (really the humanities) has taken a wrong turn...

Medicine and the Redaction of the Talmud

Have gum disease? Boils? Abscesses? Anal  sores? An ear ache? A swollen eye? Insect stings? Check out the Bavli for a remedy. The Babylonian Talmud is full of medical advice. Enough advice, in fact, for Julius Preuss to fill a fat tome entitled Biblisch-Talmudische Medizin that he published in 1911 (translated by Fred Rosner as...

Musings on the Humanities

The humanities, we are now regularly told, are in crisis.  In colleges, enrollment in humanities courses has decreased as students flock to more “relevant” courses and majors.  Academic administrators, in turn, redirect resources to the areas that attract  students and that have the greatest chance of garnering grants.  Meanwhile, the students are doing this in...

Paul, Homosexuality, and Midrash

Most scholars today believe that there is no concept of “homosexuality,” as we usually understand the term, in the Bible.  That is, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, although clearly familiar with homoerotic sexual acts, do not know of the “homosexual,” a person who has an identity based on the gender of their...

Digital Humanities Now

Seventeen years ago, with the birth of the internet, we entered what historians are calling the “fourth information age.”  Yet, as Cathy Davidson notes, we in the academy are still very much part of the “third information age,” which began in the eighteenth century with mass printing and which spawned many of the institutions with...

The Self and Science

Several years ago I wrote an article, “‘And on the Earth You Shall Sleep’”: Talmud Torah and Rabbinic Asceticism” (Journal of Religion 83 [2003]: 204-225).  In that article, I compared rabbinic “asceticism” (which I broadly define as a set of self-disciplinary practices and training of the self) to similar techniques employed by contemporary Greco-Roman philosophers...

Between Us and Them

  Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a gentile; Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a slave; Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a woman These three lines...

Religion, Jazz, and their Critics

In an essay recently posted on the NPR site , Patrick Jarenwattananon asks, “Does a Jazz Critic Have to Be a Musician, Too?”  His answer: “Playing music isn’t a prerequisite for that understanding, but it can only help. Duh, right?” I have recently seen somewhere else a similar discussion about art criticism.  Does an art...

New Syllabi

I have just added two new syllabi to my “Teaching” page. Both are to classes that I will be teaching this fall: “Religion and Sexuality” and “Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”