Then and Now
Bible

Selling the Ten Commandments

I recently read Jenna Weissman Joselitt’s book Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments and discussed it with my class.  The book tells a story about how and why Americans made the Ten Commandments a focal point for larger issues – such as American identity, “Judaeo-Christian” values, and even our superiority to the...

What are the Ten Commandments?

The “Ten Commandments” occupy an iconic place in popular imagination.  Whether as a result of Cecile B. DeMille’s epic 1956 retelling or not, most of us know the basic outline of the story: Moses goes up Sinai where God gives him the Ten Commandments, writing them with His own finger on the tablets.  The people,...

The Meaning of “Torah”: A Report from the Enoch Seminar

A couple of months ago I attended a meeting of the Enoch Seminar in Camaldoli, Italy.  The conference, which included an extraordinary range of scholars, grappled with the meaning of the word and concept of “Torah” from the biblical period through Late Antiquity.  There were a mix of session topics and formats and I have...

The Temple Mount: Conference Report

I have spent much of the last month attending conferences.  Fun, but tiring.  But fun. Let me offer a few thoughts on one of them,  “Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem,” which took place at Providence College on June 5-7, 2017.  The conference involved about thirty scholars who discussed the archaeology and significance...

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...

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.

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.

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...

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...

Interview: TLV1

When in Jerusalem recently I was interviewed for TLV1, an English-language internet radio station, about How the Bible Became Holy.  The interview can be heard here, starting around minute 25.

Was Paul a Palestinian Jew?

In her review of How the Bible Became Holy in the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Ruden wrote: He tries to undercut, for instance, the well-founded consensus that Paul was a Diaspora Jew, from a family established in Tarsus (in modern-day Turkey), who first lived in Jerusalem during his youth or young adulthood for study and...

Another Review: H-Net

Another review of How the Bible Became Holy, this one by Ronald Hendel, was posted on H-Net and is available here.