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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Latest entries
Passover and the Festival of Matzot

Passover and the Festival of Matzot

I have a new essay, “Passover and the Festival of Matzot: Synthesizing Two Holidays,” over at thetorah.com.  Check it out here!

Book Launch

Although the official launch date for my book, How the Bible Became Holy, is not until April 15, I see that it is now shipping (and available on Kindle) from Amazon. And I hope that you like the new spiffy design on this website, thanks to Ariana Parenti and the crack online marketing team at...
The Most Popular Kind of Judaism

The Most Popular Kind of Judaism

  The other day I found myself with an awkward amount of free time between serious commitments — the kind of pocket of time that is too long to really justify playing with Facebook but too short to get engaged in any project that required concentration.  So I decided to whittle away the time on...
The Curious Case of the CCAR and Adolf Eichmann

The Curious Case of the CCAR and Adolf Eichmann

Imagine, for a moment, that you run an organization that is staunchly anti-death penalty.  Now, to make things interesting, imagine that that organization is the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).  And to make things really interesting, imagine that you just learned that the Israeli courts have confirmed the conviction and death penalty of Adolf...

An Alternative Canon: Part II

  Last month I discussed a role-playing exercise that I did with my class, “Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible,” in which, at the very end of the course, I asked my students to recreate the Christian Bible.  If all the interested parties had a voice — which they assuredly did not — what might the...

Using Technology to Teach the Talmud

A short interview in which I discuss using different technologies to teach Talmud (in English) to undergraduates. I refer in the video to C-Map, which can be found here.  

Religion and Finance: Reflections

Yesterday I found some time to drop in on part of a conference on Finance in Religious Law.  While unfortunately I was unable to attend to the entire conference, it seemed that much of it revolved around one particular issue: usury or the charging of interest.  The problem goes back to several biblical verses (e.g.,...

An Alternative Canon: Part I

What if the Christian Bible emerged not from a long and murky process that involved the bishops, backed by imperial authorities, beating down challenges that they deemed “heretical” but in a kinder, gentler way?  Say, a synod to which those very heresies (and even the Jews!) were invited to attend and participate, even if not...

Project Note on Jewish Popular Piety

The ASOR Blog has published my note on my stay last year at the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research as the Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professor.  It can be read here.  Please excuse the picture.

Teaching and Vulnerability

  I have found myself at a delicate nexus this week.  I facilitated a faculty discussion on active learning; prepared a draft of a proposal to teach a MOOC through Brown; helped my oldest son to submit his college application; and, of course, went about my usual job of running my own university classes.  This...

The Goring Ox

Few biblical phrases have been as thoroughly parodied as the “goring ox.”  In fact, the entire ox-thing that the Bible has going is, for many, an ongoing source of amusement and puzzlement.  Why does such a great, lofty, and divine text spend so much time talking about oxen and other barnyard animals?  Most everywhere you...

Gluckel of Judah?

  Seventh-century BCE Judah is not typically thought of as a hotbed of feminism.  If the Hebrew Bible is to be believed, women were very much on the economic, social, religious, and legal margins of this society.  The texts portray a society largely created by and maintained for men. It turns out, however, that these...