Then and Now
How the Bible Became Holy

How the Bible Became Holy

In this startling reinterpretation of biblical history, a leading scholar shows how the Bible became the sacred text it is today


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Tradition!

In academic circles, “tradition” has long taken a beating.  Scholars have correctly pointed out that “tradition” or “traditions” are often quite malleable as Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger put it in the title of their edited volume, The Invention of Tradition. While all of this is well and good, the concept “tradition” itself has been...

Mapping the Talmud

Over the last year I have been experimenting with “concept mapping” in my classes.  In my latest experiment I had my undergraduate students use a software package called CMap to “map” or outline a passage of Talmud that we have been studying this semester.  The assignment ended up far exceeding my own pedagogical goals. Concept...

The Bible in the Bavli: Some First Numbers

Over the past few months, as noted earlier, with the help of research assistants I have been compiling a spreadsheet that records each occurrence of a biblical verse cited in the Bavli. The purpose of this data is not so much to ask qualitative questions (e.g., where and how does the Bavli cite a particular...

Ancient Religion, Modern Technology Workshop on Twitter

The twitter updates will begin shortly, and can be followed at #armt.

Thinking, Fast or Slow? Or, “On Academic Hiring”

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman returns several times to a formative experience he had in the Israeli army.  Assigned to a unit responsible for assigning fresh recruits to approriate units, he soon discovered that the interviews that he and his colleagues conducted with these recruits were, approximately, useless.  The interviews yielded...

Fun Talmud Fact

Ever wonder how many times the Babylonian Talmud cites the Bible? Me neither, until I compiled the data. The answer is 13,219 times, give or take a little. For those who are interested, the Vilna edition of the Talmud has 5894 folio pages (information from Wikipedia, so beware!). That computes to about 2.25 citations per...

One pesuk, two pesuk, three pesukim more…

In the Babylonian Talmud, authority comes in variety of flavors.  Sometimes a tradition, heard from and cited in the name of a teacher, carries the day.  At other times, logic wins.  The behavior of a rabbi, the opinion of an expert, or the common practice of a community sometimes drive a discussion about law or...

New Syllabi

I have now added two new syllabi: “Faith and Violence“, a first-year seminar, and “The Talmud.”

New Article on Pedagogy

I am happy to announce a new article that I have just published on pedagogy.  Here is the abstract: During my career, I have regularly taught a survey course on the history of Jews and Judaism in the Persian, Greek, and early Roman periods (ca. 520 BCE – 70 CE). Student performance in the course...

Music for Learning

I am presently reading Daniel Kahneman’s engaging book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics (!) for his collaborative work with Amos Tversky that helped to develop the field of behavioral economics, gained notice primarily for his work on understanding the kind of biased (and often incorrect) decisions toward which...

Judah or Joseph? The Riddle of Jacob’s Testament

  I have been struggling recently with the biblical account of Jacob’s last testament to his sons and their descendents, found in Genesis 49:1-27.  I am hardly the first.  As many commentators have already noted, this is one of the most obscure passages in the Pentateuch.  The Hebrew is difficult and at times almost unintelligible;...

Serving God

This last summer, with the help of the Instructional Technology Group at Brown University, I interviewed several clergy members from around Providence, RI.  The primary purpose of these interviews was to create video footage that I could clip and use in classes.  Thus, for example, students in my course on “Religion and Sexuality” viewed short...