Seminars

  • Founded
    1968
  • Seminar Number
    473

The seminar is composed of scholars of different faiths and traditions with a common interest in research and teaching of the Hebrew Bible. The focus of the seminar is research illuminating the cultural milieu, language, text, and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. This research is characterized by a variety of methodologies, including historical-critical, literary, philological, archaeological, and sociological approaches to the text, as well as history of interpretation. Research on ancient near eastern cultures and languages relating to ancient Israel is also regularly presented.


Co-Chairs
Professor David Carr
dcarr@utsnyc.edu

Professor Liane Feldman
lmfeldman@nyu.edu

Rapporteur
David DeLauro
ddelauro@scholarsgateway.com

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
A Study in Religious Ethics: Ruth and Naomi in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond
Susan Niditch, Amherst College
Abstract

Abstract

This talk is drawn from a chapter of my new project on ethics in the Hebrew Bible and beyond. After a brief overview of the planned book, its origins and goals, I will focus on the story of Ruth, sharing a portion of a longer essay on religious ethics. We will look at relationships and interactions in the narrative, views of the deity, and weave in the concept of “moral luck” as a way of gaining insight into the writer’s worldview. Then we will take note of the potential ethical problems that post-biblical Jewish writers find in the biblical work, underscored by treatments of key passages in Ruth Rabbah, and examine the ways in which the Rabbis understand or resolve troubling issues.





10/19/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
The name "Berechiah" in Zechariah 1
Mark Leuchter, Temple University
Abstract

Abstract

The name “Berechiah” in Zechariah 1 (vv. 1 and 7) is often regarded as the name of the father of the prophet and thus part of the prophet’s patronymic information, a standard feature of a superscription in a prophetic book. However, it is more likely a hermeneutical reference to Baruch b. Neriah, the scribe symbolically associated with much material in the book of Jeremiah, a work that left a deep impression on the formation of the book of Zechariah. The present study considers the role that Baruch played in the lore associated with Jeremiah cultivated during the exilic period, and the status of Baruch as a patron saint of scribalism among the Yehudite literati of the Persian period. This, in turn, affected the redaction and reception of the developing book of Zechariah, where the name and memory of Baruch could lend authority to the work and those who shaped it.





11/16/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Terms for Teaching about and Discussing the Formation of Non-P/JE Materials in the Pentateuch in the Twenty-First Century: A Query and Proposal(s)
David Carr, Union Theological Seminary
Abstract

Abstract

It is not as clear as it once was how to designate strata of the Pentateuch, especially when trying to teach some basic, broadly-accepted views to students. For example, use of the scholarly term “non-P” for materials outside P (or outside P and D) only characterizes what those materials are not. Yet just using the term “JE” for materials outside P and D just reproduces the parts of the documentary hypothesis that are most controverted. Erhard Blum's proposal of "KD" (Deuteronomistische Komposition) has not gained much traction, both because it is quite tied to his particular set of proposals and because the term "Deuteromomistic" implies a level of specific D influence on non-P materials that surpasses the evidence.

This presentation advances some ideas on this topic that were formed in the process of producing a revised edition of an introductory textbook (now entitled The Hebrew Bible: A Contemporary Introduction [Wiley, 2021]). Using an unusually brief format to allow for broader discussion, this short paper will suggest some different possibilities for terming scholarly schools in Pentateuchal study and advance arguments for the benefits of using the letter “L” to speak to students about a set of relatively late, layers of non-Priestly lay materials that many scholars now identify across different parts of the Pentateuch.


Respondent: Liane Feldman, New York University

Respondent: Julia Rhyder, Harvard University

Respondent: Mark Smith, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

12/07/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
'Hear and give ear!': Biblical Poetry's Speaking Voice
Jacqueline Vayntrub, Yale Divinity School
Abstract

Abstract

How did biblical authors understand poetry? What we tend to read as poems function in the Bible as a special kind of speech, that is, representations of the embodied human voice. Scholars have gestured towards theorizing the voice in biblical poetry by applying theories of performance and emphasizing biblical poetry’s oral origins—variously, its historical development, authorial mindset, or informing style. In this talk, I move this conversation forward using theories of the voice and its role in literary production found in philosophy, comparative literature, media studies, and the Classics, to show how biblical poets creatively sought to inscribe their craft of beauty and persuasion as a living, breathing artifact of the embodied voice.





01/25/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Listen to your Mother! Mothers as Moral Teachers in Proverbs vis-à-vis Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical Literature
Karina Hogan, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

In many of the literary texts of Hellenistic and early Roman-period Judaism, mothers are portrayed as taking an active role in the moral formation of children, both sons and daughters. In some texts, moral instruction seems to be metaphorically associated with maternity more than with paternity. It is curious, therefore, that the teaching role of mothers is barely alluded to in the contemporaneous wisdom books, Ben Sira and the Wisdom of Solomon. The question I would like to explore with the Columbia Hebrew Bible seminar is whether (or to what extent) these later wisdom books are departing from Proverbs in minimizing the moral authority and teaching role of mothers.





03/01/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
From Amenemope to Ankhsheshonqi: Prov 22:17–24:22 and Egyptian Wisdom
Bernd Schipper, Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany)
Abstract

Abstract

It has been widely accepted that the third part of the Book of Proverbs (22:17–24:22) shows close similarities to the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope. What is still under debate, however, is the question of how to explain the literary technique of the author of Proverbs. Moreover, if one looks at the actual parallels, there is no doubt that the similarities between Prov 22:17–24:22 and Amenemope end with Prov 23:11.

The first section of this paper will demonstrate that the literary technique used by the author of Prov 22:17–23:11 can be found in the Egyptian wisdom tradition. It will then show that, whereas Prov 22:17–23:11 relies on the Instruction of Amenemope, Prov 23:12–24:22 is ultimately a piece of “scribal wisdom” that combines motifs from different instructions with a particular focus on the Demotic Instruction of Ankhsheshonqi. The final part of the paper will present a possible socio-historical background for the “Egyptian Instruction” of Prov 22:17–24:22.





04/19/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Altars and Counter-Altars
Naphtali Meshel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)
Abstract

Abstract

The Priestly sacrificial laws in the Pentateuch present a clear-cut distinction between “consumptive” and “destructive” fires.

A consumptive fire “eats” the materia sacra, and it can be conceptualized (perhaps even in Biblical literature, though not in P) as the deity’s tongue. Destructive fires, on the other hand, are perceived as a means of waste-disposal. They, too, involve incineration, but merely as a means for eliminating materia sacra, to avoid the liability of anyone ever coming into contact with it. In P, the distinction between “consumptive” and “destructive” fires is nearly absolute, as can be demonstrated by the neat dovetailing of three parameters: language, geography, and ritual procedure.

The dichotomy between ritual offering and waste-disposal becomes increasingly problematic in Second Temple and early Jewish literatures. This paper examines one very early example, from the Book of Ezekiel, of the break-down (or at least problematization) of the distinction between the two, and aims to contextualize this process within a broader “science of ritual.”





05/10/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Military Victory and Festal Celebration: Tracing the History of War Commemoration in Biblical and Early Jewish Festivals
Julia Rhyder, Harvard University
Abstract

Abstract

The Hebrew Bible and Second Temple traditions are replete with narratives of warfare and collective violence. But relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to the way in which these accounts of violence affected the way that ancient Israelites structured their festal calendar. In this talk, Julia Rhyder traces the emergence of festivals that recall military victories in ancient Israel, from the festival of Passover and Purim to the new celebrations of the Maccabees, most famously the festival of Hanukkah. Biblical materials that pre-date the Hellenistic period show only a limited interest in commemorating warfare, however prevalent their narratives of violence; early Jewish writings from the Hellenistic age, in contrast, resort more commonly to the celebration of military victories. This change, it is argued, reflects a conviction that the memory of warfare could serve as a key means to legitimize monarchs and to promote the political agency of Jews within the Hellenistic Mediterranean.