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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On Conversion

In his review in the Jewish Daily Forward of a new book on the “genetic history” of the Jews, Jon Entine writes, “‘Who is a Jew?’ has been a poignant question for Jews throughout our history.”  It is a question that has been very much in the news of late, not primarily for reasons of...

The Rabbis’ Social Network

  A couple of months ago I gave a presentation at a workshop that I organized, “Ancient Religion, Modern Technology,” in which I outlined a rationale and vision for a digital project that mapped and analyzed the social network of the rabbis.  I am linking here the presentation, for which I used a new (to...

“The Fear of the Husband”

Recovering the actual religious practices of Jewish women in antiquity – or, really, of almost all non-elite/non-rabbinic Jews – is at best a tricky business.  Our main sources are rabbinic texts, which are so insular, academic, and either prescriptive or utopian that it is often hard to figure out what, if anything, they actually do...

Israelite or Egyptian? A Personal Reflection from the Seder

For many years, we have incorporated a children’s drama into our Passover Seder.  During the Magid (telling of the Passover story) we send the children out of the room to prepare a drama relating to the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  They return a little while later, perform it before the adults, and then...

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.”