Then and Now
Author Archive

The Wisdom of Ben Sira: How Jewish?

I have written a short piece on how the book of Ben Sira (also known as Ecclesiasticus, which today is found in the Apocrypha) was pushed to the Jewish margins and on some recent attempts to bring it back into at least the fringes of Jewish consciousness.  The essay can be found here.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religion

For the last several years I have worked as a co-editor on The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religion, “the first comprehensive single-volume reference work offering authoritative coverage of ancient religions in the Mediterranean world.”  It is now available for pre-order, with publication scheduled for December 15, 2015.  While I have my own skepticism about the...

Interview: How the Bible Became Holy

I recently gave an interview to “New Books in Jewish Studies.”  The interview (about 30 minutes) can be heard here.

Wealth: Religious Perspectives

I am excited to be co-teaching a new course this semester with my colleague, Professor Susan Harvey.  The course description of “Wealth: Religious Perspectives,” is below: This course will survey religious approaches to the acquisition and use of wealth: How do religious thinkers understand the notion of ownership and private property? Is the fact of...

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.