Then and Now
Author Archive

How to Evaluate University Teaching

How should we evaluate teaching in institutions of higher education?  Despite the deep relevance of this question today, the truth is that we are only beginning to have that discussion and in many places, fitfully at best.  A couple of years ago I was charged to lead a committee to think about this question.  We...

How to Get Into Brown University…

…in 1793.  For a research project (to be revealed in time) I have been looking at The Laws of Rhode-Island College (later renamed Brown University).  It begins: No person shall be admitted into this College, unless upon examination by the President, or in his absence one Professor and two at least of the Tutors, he...

Pope Francis on the Sadducees

I recently published a short piece on the Sadducees in Bible Odyssey.  It was fun to do, if for no other reason than it gave me an opportunity to stake out my (controversial) position on the origin of the Sadducees and Pharisees. One thing about that piece that gave me trouble, though, was the framing. ...

Canonizing Scripture: Historical Simulation

We are just wrapping up my undergraduate course at Brown University entitled “How the Bible Became Holy.”  I have earlier posted a syllabus for this course, which can be found here.  This was the third time I taught the course and was far larger than in previous years.  As in past years, the course will...

Speaking in Baltimore

I will be giving four talks in Baltimore on April 1-2 on the holiness of the Bible.  I am grateful to the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Study and the consortium of Baltimore area synagogues for the opportunity to do this.  The details are located on my Events page or on this flyer.

Toward a New Model for Academic Publishing

I had a letter published in the New York Times the other day – it can be found on the Times website here and a I reproduce it below.  While this letter was in response to an article that dealt specifically with the high cost of academic journals, I have long been troubled by a...

On Jewish Betrothal

I recently wrote an essay for thegemara.com on the origins of Jewish betrothal.  The primary but not only context for this essay is to provide a new, historical lens for those who, working through the “daf yomi” cycle of reading a page of Talmud each day through to its completion, have just started tractate Kiddushin. ...

Who Read the Bible in Antiquity?

A video of the lecture that I gave at Trinity University on “Who Read the Bible in Antiquity” to kick off their Lennox Seminar.  Meeting faculty colleagues there and interacting with the students in the seminar were both a lot of fun for me, although I wish that someone told me that my collar was...

Ezra: Role Play Exercise

Each time I teach “How the Bible Became Holy” I spend a day role-playing the response to Ezra’s return to Jerusalem in 458 BCE.  We focus on the aftermath of Nehemiah 8 but students have read all of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This year we had to break the class into three groups, each simultaneously conducting...

And the Other…. Syllabus for course on the Mishnah and Tosefta

The second course I will be teaching this semester is a graduate student oriented course on the Mishnah and Tosefta.  You can find a copy of the syllabus here. If you would prefer a copy in Word in order to modify for your own needs, please contact me.  As always, suggestions are welcome.  

How the Bible Became Holy: Course Syllabus

This spring I will once again be teaching my course, “How the Bible Became Holy.”  This is an undergraduate survey that spans from the biblical period to around the third century CE.  As always, I have tweaked a little.  A copy of the syllabus is here.  Should you desire to teach a version of this...

Gary Anderson Lecture on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty

In early November I convened a workshop on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty.  We spent most of our time at the workshop discussing translations of Jewish texts and we are in the process of assembling those (and other) texts to publish together as a kind of source book. One of the highlights of the...