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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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...

Workshop CFP: Ancient Religion, Modern Technology

The following announcement will soon be going out widely. Please feel free to circulate! Workshop Call for PapersFebruary 13-14, 2012Brown University The Program in Judaic Studies in collaboration with the Brown University Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship is pleased to announce plans for a two-day workshop devoted to investigating the ways in which the digital...

Do Dogs Have Free-will?

Of course not. This, I understand, parachutes me into an area that I readily confess to know nothing about. There must be a scientific literature on this, and I am sure that there are passionate dog owners who are positive that their dogs possess free-will. This also is well outside the areas that I normally...

Were the Rabbis Revolutionary?

Yes. Kind of. Maybe. Thus is the status quaestionis as it emerged from a mini-symposium at Harvard University yesterday. Firmly on one side of the question was Shaye Cohen and Moshe Halbertal. Both pointed to the radical difference between the Mishnah and Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. The extensive and systematic treatment of...

Conference Reflections: Archaeology and Texts

Academic conferences tend to peter out. The time is late; all are tired; even some of the panelists have already left for home. There is thus often little time or energy at the end for reflection, synthesis, and robust discussion. The Talmuda de’Eretz Israel conference was no exception. While no fault of the organizers –...

Archaeology and the Rabbis: 2

Today was a full day of papers. So without further ado: Shawn Zelig Aster, Yeshiva University, Mishnah Baba Metzia 7,7 and the Distribution of the Phoenician Jar: The Relationship of Mishnaic Hebrew to Northern Biblical Hebrew and to Phoenician Using the material evidence of settlement patterns, Aster argued that there was no continuous Israelite/Jewish settlement...

Archaeology and the Talmud: 1

This week Yeshivah University is hosting a 2-day conference entitled, Talmuda de-Eretz Israel: Archaeology and the Rabbis in Late Antiquity. Here is a report on day 1: Eric Meyers, Duke University, The Use of Archaeology in Understanding Rabbinic Materials: An Archaeological Perspective Meyers pointed to some areas of intersection between rabbinic texts and archaeology. He...

The End of Lachrymosity

Over half a century ago, the great Jewish historian Salo Baron famously declared an end to the lachrymose view of Jewish history. By this he meant that prior Jewish historians had an almost unremittingly bleak view of Jewish history. Jews, in these narratives, were always the persecuted victims, living tenuously in a hostile world. Baron...

Who is a Jew? No, Really.

The traditional legal definition of a Jew is well-known: the child of a Jewish mother or a convert. Sure, there is a little fuzziness around the edges as Orthodox Jews in Israel in particular debate what makes a kosher conversion, and whether conversions can be retroactively revoked. But both Orthodox and Conservative Jewish institutions share...

The Human Condition

Last month I saw the exhibit Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. What was particularly interesting to me about this exhibit was the chronological progression. The earliest, Renaissance and early modern works attempted to portray the human form realistically. The works of the early twentieth century...