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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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...

Workshop Announcement

The program for the “Ancient Religion, Modern Technology” workshop is now posted. Please join us! http://tinyurl.com/3jpeun9

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit: An Unsolicited Opinion

I recently had the opportunity to to see the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at the Discovery Center in New York.  The exhibit is being advertised heavily (it seemed like there was a poster on every other block in Manhattan) and has been extensively reviewed.  The reviews have been generally positive, if at times puzzled.  In...

Hot Sexy Mama!

  We have dragged our children to art museums most of their lives, and perhaps only because they didn’t know any better they have been remarkably tolerant.  We would, of course, try to help them to stay engaged through tours, audio guides, bribes of candy forthcoming, and, of course, the many wonderful activities that museums...

More Musings on the Humanities

My friend Horace Taft, in his comment to a previous post, drew my attention to this TED video.  In it, Liz Coleman, the president of Bennington College, eloquently defends the value of the liberal arts.  She begins with a largely conventional critique of where the liberal arts (really the humanities) has taken a wrong turn...

Medicine and the Redaction of the Talmud

Have gum disease? Boils? Abscesses? Anal  sores? An ear ache? A swollen eye? Insect stings? Check out the Bavli for a remedy. The Babylonian Talmud is full of medical advice. Enough advice, in fact, for Julius Preuss to fill a fat tome entitled Biblisch-Talmudische Medizin that he published in 1911 (translated by Fred Rosner as...

Musings on the Humanities

The humanities, we are now regularly told, are in crisis.  In colleges, enrollment in humanities courses has decreased as students flock to more “relevant” courses and majors.  Academic administrators, in turn, redirect resources to the areas that attract  students and that have the greatest chance of garnering grants.  Meanwhile, the students are doing this in...

Paul, Homosexuality, and Midrash

Most scholars today believe that there is no concept of “homosexuality,” as we usually understand the term, in the Bible.  That is, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, although clearly familiar with homoerotic sexual acts, do not know of the “homosexual,” a person who has an identity based on the gender of their...

Digital Humanities Now

Seventeen years ago, with the birth of the internet, we entered what historians are calling the “fourth information age.”  Yet, as Cathy Davidson notes, we in the academy are still very much part of the “third information age,” which began in the eighteenth century with mass printing and which spawned many of the institutions with...