Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies and Borns Jewish Studies Program
Sycamore Hall, Rm. 207
Ph.D., University of Toronto, Centre for the Study of Religion and Centre for Jewish Studies, 2012
- Hebrew Bible: prophecy, lament, Psalms and prayer, canon formation
- Second Temple Judaism: Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic Targum
- Book History: material text, cultural history of reading and writing
- Syriac reception and transmission of scriptures
I study the texts and traditions of Ancient Judaism, including the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and para-biblical texts, with a special interest in the development and interpretation of prophecy, prayer, and lament literature in second temple Jewish culture. I seek to reconstruct the broader imaginative world behind the formation and early interpretation of these writings. My research investigates the concept of writing itself in the ancient Jewish imagination, in a scribal culture whose categories and definitions for understanding texts were quite different from those of modern “book culture.” Before the codex, the printing press, and authorial copyright, how were texts developed and used, and what are the implications of these questions for the way we understand the history of the Hebrew Bible? I place the field of Biblical Studies in conversation with the broader history of Jewish reading and writing, as well as with Book History and Information Studies, which both investigate the roles of material media and social contexts in the transmission and preservation of cultural memory. This interdisciplinary approach allows for cross-cultural and cross-historical comparisons that can provide new ways of approaching ancient Jewish texts. Recently, I considered how “post-book” digital culture transforms practices of text production and reading, and argued that reflecting on these profound changes can invigorate our thinking about concepts of authorship, authority, and textual transmission in the “pre-book” world, as well.
My current book project is entitled The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. Using the collection and reception of psalms as a case study, it considers how one might speak of a literary tradition before categories of “Bible” and “book” had emerged. My sources are a multigeneric corpus of apocryphal literature from Hellenistic and Roman Judaism, written and preserved alongside biblical literature, considered comparatively with late-antique and medieval Syriac texts documenting their reception in eastern Christian circles. The Jewish texts have primarily been treated as a handmaid to the study of the Bible, rather than as a body of ancient literature on their own terms. I seek to reclaim these sources for the ancient world. I avoid reading early Jewish texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek merely for what they tell us about later religious corpora—rather, I take a cue from their Syriac readers to recover what literature and writing meant in the ancient imagination. Before authorial property, widespread literacy, or a fixed idea of scripture, how did ancient people think about and organize their own literature?
What emerges are ways of imagining and classifying writing that are different from modern concepts of “Bible,” and different from modern scholarly anxieties about identifying texts, establishing authors, and completing bibliographies. Instead, ancient people inhabited a messier, less defined textual world—one that was not constrained by a rigid concept of scripture, and one that was not entirely within their reach. Rather than ‘authors’ as figures that authorize and organize texts, we see generative literary characters who were known for the skill of writing; rather than ‘books,’ we have multigenerational projects that enabled their own expansion. The way ancient people conceptualized the totality of their literary inventory was often vague and undefined—characterized by a cultural receptivity to incompleteness, fragmentation, and possibility: the world is full of secrets, and books—more books, better books!—are waiting to be discovered under every stone.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) – Doctoral (2006-2009)
- Canadian Friends of the École biblique et archéologique française Scholarship for research in Jerusalem (2010)
Courses Recently Taught
- REL-A 210 Introduction to Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
- Women in the Bible
- Prophecy in Ancient Israel
- Suffering and Lament in Ancient Judaism
- The Dead Sea Scrolls
"Jesus vs. Judaism … Again," Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books, (April 15, 2014)
“Psalmic Recollections: The Scriptural Imaginary in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, and Syriac Manuscripts,” for Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Textual Fluidity, Manuscript Culture and New Philology (eds L.I. Lied and H. Lundhaug; Walter de Gruyter, 2015), forthcoming.
“’David did not ascend into the heavens’ (Acts 2:34): Early Jewish Ascent Traditions and the Myth of Exegesis in the New Testament,” Judaïsme ancien – Ancient Judaism: Revue internationale d’histoire et de philologie/International Journal of History and Philology 3 (2014), forthcoming.
“Thinking Digitally About the Dead Sea Scrolls: ‘Book History’ Before and Beyond the Book,” Book History 14 (2011), 235-63.
“‘Aramaisms’ in Qohelet: Methodological Problems in Identification and Interpretation,” Qohelet for the 21st Century (eds M. Boda, T. Longman, and C. Rata; Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).
“A Peg To Hang on: Metaphor, Ancestral Merit, and the Midrashic Relationship of David and Solomon,” Vixens Disturbing Vineyards: Embarrassment and Embracement of Scriptures: Festschrift in Honor of Harry Fox (eds A. Glazer, M. Segal, and T. Yoreh; Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2010), 219-240.
“Moses, David, and Scribal Revelation: Preservation and Renewal in Second Temple Jewish Textual Traditions,” The Significance of Sinai: Traditions about Sinai and Divine Revelation in Judaism and Christianity (eds G.J. Brooke, H. Najman, and L. Stuckenbruck; Themes in Biblical Narrative; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 91-115.