Hebrew Bible; ancient Near East; biblical, cuneiform, and early Jewish law; law and literature; Semitic linguistics My work examines the Hebrew Bible in comparison with ancient Near Eastern sources and draws on contemporary legal and literary theory and linguistics, with further recourse to ancient Jewish sources and medieval exegesis. I am currently transforming my dissertation into a book entitled Legal Practice, Legal Writing: The Biblical Bailment Law and Divine Justice. I am Acquisitions Editor of Hebrew Bible, Ancient Near East, and Jewish Studies at Gorgias Press. If you are interested in submitting a proposal, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am currently Visiting Research Fellow in Judaic Studies at CUNY Brooklyn College.
My research focuses on the literature, law, and social history of the rabbinic movement. In particular, I am interested in how rabbinic food regulations enact and maintain distinct identities. I have just published a new book entitled Rabbinic Drinking: What Beverages Teach Us About Rabbinic Literature (University of California Press, 2020) and a co-edited volume entitled Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food (New York University Press, 2019).
My research centers on the cultural and intellectual history of Germany from 1750 to the present, with a focus on classical, biblical, orientalist, and theological scholarship. Thus far, I have concentrated on representations of ancient Judaism and their embeddedness in modern cultural, political, and religious complexes. These inquiries contribute, more broadly, to historiography, European history, and history of the humanities.
I am currently Honorary Research Fellow at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies at Sheffield. I am broadly trained in the Second Temple (including New Testament/Early Christianity) and Rabbinic periods, with a focus on post-exilic and non-canonical Jewish literature, and early Jewish biblical interpretation. My current research combines the study of texts from the 1st and 2nd centuries CE with material evidence to investigate how early Jewish and Christian communities responded to crisis. I am interested in how textual and material evidence reveals ancient attempts to define and establish authority within these communities, and the role of apocalyptic conceptions of the end of days in the composition and interpretation of biblical texts. In addition, I work in contemporary portrayals of the end times, including in Jewish communities in Israel and through American popular culture. I conduct research in gender theory/women and gender studies and I dabble in the afterlives of biblical and apocryphal stories in popular culture, especially in Science Fiction and Dystopian genres. I have served as visiting assistant professor of religion at Centre College and as visiting instructor of Jewish Studies/Religion at Colgate University; I have also taught at McGill University, the University of Kentucky, and Butler University. My courses have covered Judaism/Jewish Studies, Ancient Scripture (both canons and non-canonical literature), and Religion in Antiquity, with a broad array of upper-level courses and graduate courses. In my teaching I use high-impact practices such as community-based learning, and I have mentored and supervised student research. In addition I served as the faculty advisor to the Jewish Students’ Organization, where, in addition advising their activities, I brought in speakers on topics such as anti-semitism and I organized and led the Centre College Passover Seder.
Research My book, The Dangerous Duty of Rebuke: Leviticus 19:17 in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation (Brill, 2018), examines the ways in which religious leaders within early Jewish and Christian communities conceived of the obligation to rebuke their fellows based upon the biblical verse: “Do not hate your kinsfolk in your heart, rebuke your fellow but do not incur sin” (Leviticus 19:17). Analyzing texts from the Bible through the Talmud and late midrashim as well as early Christian monastic writings, I expose a shift from asking how to rebuke in the Second Temple period, to whether one can rebuke in early rabbinic texts, to whether one should rebuke in later rabbinic and monastic sources. My next project, tentatively titled Propaganda, Deception, and Censorship: The Rabbinic Production of Knowledge, explores the manifold ways through which the rabbis of late antiquity fabricate history and law. Drawing upon insights from propaganda studies, trauma and postcolonial theory, as well as rhetorical criticism, this project examines rabbinic literature as a microcosm for understanding the partisan construction and dissemination of knowledge in the ancient world.
Jonathan D. Sarna is spending this year as a fellow of the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies. Ordinarily he serves as University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, where he chairs its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. He also is the past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Author or editor of more than thirty books on American Jewish history and life, his American Judaism: A History won six awards including the 2004 “Everett Jewish Book of the Year Award” from the Jewish Book Council. Sarna is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Jewish Research. His most recent books are When General Grant Expelled the Jews and Lincoln & the Jews: A History (with Benjamin Shapell), which has just appeared in a Hebrew edition.
Senior Fellow | Center for the Study of World Religions | Harvard Divinity School
I joined Princeton’s Program in the Ancient World in 2014 after receiving a MAR in the History of Christianity from Yale University and degrees in Religious Studies and Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My interests cluster around Christians in the later Roman Empire, book history, legal history, and the history of epistemology. My dissertation approaches Christianization from a new angle: not the Christianization of people, but of structures of knowledge. In it, I trace changes to documentary practice and readerly expectations across technical literature from the late fourth through the middle of the fifth century CE. I explore late antique scholarly productions ranging from Christian theological tractates and conciliar acta to Roman juristic writings and authoritative legal compendia, military handbooks, grammatical treatises, and the Palestinian Talmud in order to explore the ways that imperial Christianity inflected the production of truth even in domains that do no constructive theological work. Bishops, rabbis, and jurists in the Theodosian era produced definitive statements of sophisticated intellectual traditions with startlingly similar forms, and I argue that all are best understood as products of a considerably unified, and novel, book culture that arose in the peculiar Theodosian moment. I am co-director of the Solomon’s Pools Archaeological Project, and a field archaeologist with the Jezreel Valley Regional Project, where I focus on excavation of the Roman 6th Legion “Ferrata” castra in Legio, Israel. I am a fellow of the American Academy in Rome (FAAR’19) and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. In fall 2019 I will be a Visiting Scholar in the Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità of La Sapienza University, Rome, and I will spend spring and summer of 2020 in Athens as the Oscar Broneer Traveling Fellow of the American School of Classical Studies. My curriculum vitae is available here.