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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The Self and Science

Several years ago I wrote an article, “‘And on the Earth You Shall Sleep’”: Talmud Torah and Rabbinic Asceticism” (Journal of Religion 83 [2003]: 204-225).  In that article, I compared rabbinic “asceticism” (which I broadly define as a set of self-disciplinary practices and training of the self) to similar techniques employed by contemporary Greco-Roman philosophers...

Between Us and Them

  Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a gentile; Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a slave; Praised be You, YHVH, our god, king of the universe, who has not made me a woman These three lines...

Religion, Jazz, and their Critics

In an essay recently posted on the NPR site , Patrick Jarenwattananon asks, “Does a Jazz Critic Have to Be a Musician, Too?”  His answer: “Playing music isn’t a prerequisite for that understanding, but it can only help. Duh, right?” I have recently seen somewhere else a similar discussion about art criticism.  Does an art...

New Syllabi

I have just added two new syllabi to my “Teaching” page. Both are to classes that I will be teaching this fall: “Religion and Sexuality” and “Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Fanatics

  We need fanatics. By keeping true to their ideological positions – whether by threatening to bring down the modern global financial markets or by banning vegetables for consumption because they contain microscopic bugs – they remind us of the power and importance of their ideas. Fanatics are very good as serving as embodied and...

A New Home

It has taken me some time, but I finally have managed to create a site that consolidates my blog, my personal website, and my site devoted to resources for my book, Creating Judaism. I have imported past blog entries, a procedure that I have discovered makes a few of them look a bit funny. Future...

Apocalypse, One of These Days

I had the good fortune of recently attending “The Enoch Seminar,” which this year was devoted to study of the books of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. These two books are both thought to originate in first or second century Palestine, written in Hebrew by Jews. Both contain a series of visions, given by the...

Through the Lens of "Judeo-Christian"

The phrase “Judeo-Christian” – as in, “America is based on Judeo-Christian values” – is a strange beast. Given the not insignificant and often fatal tension between Jews and Christians over 2,000 years over matters of doctrine and belief, what does it mean to meld Judaism and Christianity into a common concept? When and why would...

gninoitseuQ "belief"

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a workshop at Yale University on the term “belief”. The focus was on whether, how, and why “belief” remains a useful category for discussing and explaining religion today. The day of conversation was immensely interesting and I will make no attempt here to convey its...

To Flog or not to Flog?

In an essay discussing his new book, In Defense of Flogging, Peter Moskos wants to begin a conversation. Prisons, we all know, don’t work as well as we would all like. Around .5% of all Americans are currently in prison, an extraordinary number when considered by any measure, and one that is up nearly four-fold...

The Pope, the Jews, and the Vatican Museums

My essay on “The Pope, the Jews, and the Vatican Museums,” was just posted online at “The Forward,” and will appear in the next print edition.

If it is built, would anybody come?

I recently watched an inspiring presentation by Professor Dan Cohen, entitled “The Ivory Tower and the Open Web.” For some time I have been wondering if the web could be used to help develop an online a scholarly community that was relatively tightly focused on early Judaism. A website would offer such scholars an opportunity...