Then and Now
Author Archive

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.”

Fanatics

  We need fanatics. By keeping true to their ideological positions – whether by threatening to bring down the modern global financial markets or by banning vegetables for consumption because they contain microscopic bugs – they remind us of the power and importance of their ideas. Fanatics are very good as serving as embodied and...

A New Home

It has taken me some time, but I finally have managed to create a site that consolidates my blog, my personal website, and my site devoted to resources for my book, Creating Judaism. I have imported past blog entries, a procedure that I have discovered makes a few of them look a bit funny. Future...

Apocalypse, One of These Days

I had the good fortune of recently attending “The Enoch Seminar,” which this year was devoted to study of the books of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. These two books are both thought to originate in first or second century Palestine, written in Hebrew by Jews. Both contain a series of visions, given by the...

Through the Lens of "Judeo-Christian"

The phrase “Judeo-Christian” – as in, “America is based on Judeo-Christian values” – is a strange beast. Given the not insignificant and often fatal tension between Jews and Christians over 2,000 years over matters of doctrine and belief, what does it mean to meld Judaism and Christianity into a common concept? When and why would...