Then and Now
Old Testament

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...

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 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 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...

From Israelite to Jew: 6: The Torah

In this episode I discuss the historical formation of the Torah, or Pentateuch, and provide an introduction to the documentary hypothesis. I am now receiving technical support from Brown University, and the quality of the audio is improved. The episode can be heard here. More download options can be found here. The podcast can also...

From Israelite to Jew: 2: Religion of Israel

This is the second episode of the podcast, “From Israelite to Jew.” It focuses on the religion of ancient Israel, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and archaeological finds. The podcast can be heard here, or click on the player below. It can also be accessed via iTunes.