About

Interests

Hebrew Bible; wisdom literature; instruction transmission; biblical poetry and poetics; philology; the history of biblical scholarship.

Research

My research focuses on the formation of the Hebrew Bible, its various genres and modes of discourse against the broader background of ancient Near Eastern literary production, and its reception in and impact on Western scholarship. Broadly, my work seeks to recover the values of ancient literary culture through the language of the texts and examines how these values were reshaped in their reception.

My first book, Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms (in press) examines the modern scholarly history of theorizing biblical poetry and draws out a central, unresolved tension in this history. Again and again, theories of biblical poetry have assumed an oral genesis of biblical poetic traditions. Scholarship has mapped this imagined literary history onto shifting aesthetic values about the mimetic nature of poetry, the sublime, and narrow, structure-focused approaches to poetry. Yet, the assumption that biblical poetry necessarily begins life as an oral composition stands in direct tension with the written nature of our evidence. The divide between the imagined orality of poetic traditions and the concrete materiality of the texts is most commonly bridged by evolutionary theories of the development of literature from oral to written. Through critical reflection upon this history of ideas and a close reading of biblical poetry in its textual framing, the study advances a new conceptual framework for understanding these texts. This framework moves beyond our inherited evolutionary paradigm and towards an awareness of the biblical text’s own manner of expression.

My next book is currently underway. Reframing Biblical Poetry (under contract with Yale University Press in the Anchor Bible Reference Library series), takes the central insight of my first book—that poetry’s narrative and non-narrative frames shape its meaning—to present fresh readings of well known texts. The book has three sections, where I will explore how poetry is framed by narrative, in character voices; how poetry is arranged in anthology, not in a character’s voice, but by the names and personages of legendary characters; and how some of these ideas manifest as literary features.

Another project, currently underway, involves theorizing  knowledge transmission and its gendered dimensions through the lens of human mortality. For what will eventually be a book, tentatively titled Wisdom in Transmission, I have already produced a number of essays examining the depiction of lineage and succession as strategies for transcending individual death in wisdom and narrative texts. One article forthcoming in the Pardee Festschrift, entitled “Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in the Tale of Aqhat,” shows how the Ugaritic tale of Aqhat constructs a father-daughter alternative to succession. A second forthcoming essay in a collected volume, “Ecclesiastes and The Problem of Transmission in Biblical Literature,” examines Ecclesiastes against ancient Near Eastern instruction and Platonic dialogues, recovering an ancient question about the stability of transmission: Is speech reliable when it is detached from the living speaker’s voice? A third essay, forthcoming in a volume on Ben Sira, “Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Ben Sira and Proverbs,” re-examines the evolutionary framework in the study of biblical wisdom literature, and presents an alternative framework, in which instruction can be read as a discourse of trans-generational survival. A fourth essay, “Like Father, Like Son: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical Literature,” forthcoming in an issue of the journal Hebrew Bible Ancient Israel, considers how literary techniques such as “command and fulfillment” manifest broader social and intellectual values and can give us hints as to what biblical authors understood by “transmission” in their depiction of the passage of objects, responsibility, instruction, and text from one generation to the next.

These inquiries also intellectually situate the text editions I am currently producing with Matthew Suriano for the SBL Writings of the Ancient World Series, Hebrew and Aramaic Writings about the Dead from Judah and Judea: Eighth cent. BCE through First cent. BCE.

Education

PhD, with honors, University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
MA, University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
MA, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bible and its World
BA, UCLA, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

Other Publications

“Before Authorship: Solomon and Prov. 1:1,” Biblical Interpretation 26 (2018) 182-206

Forthcoming

“Tyre’s Glory and Demise: The Poetics of Description in Ezekiel 27.” Catholic Bible Quarterly.

“The Age of the Bible and Ancient Near East: Intellectual Developments and Highlights,” in The Routledge Handbook of Jewish History and Historiography, edited by Dean Phillip Bell.

“Ecclesiastes and The Problem of Transmission in Biblical Literature,” in Writing and  Scribalism: Authors, Audiences, and Texts in Social Perspective, edited by Mark Leuchter. T&T Clark.

“Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Ben Sira and Proverbs,” in proceedings of the Virginia Ben Sira Conference, July 2017, edited by Gregory Goering, Matthew Goff, and Samuel Adams. Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplements. Leiden: Brill.

“Torah as Speech Performance in the Hebrew Bible,” in proceedings of Ninth Enoch Seminar: From torah to Torah: Variegated Notions of Torah from the First Temple Period to Late Antiquity, Camaldoli, Italy, June 2017, edited by William Schniedewind and Jason Zurawski. Early Judaism and its Literature Series. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

“Like Father, Like Son: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical Literature.” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel. Edited by Hindy Najman, Nathan MacDonald, and Jonathan Stoekl.

Popular Publications

Sexy Sunday School: Naughty Bible Translation,” JSTOR Daily Magazine. October 2015

Who is the Eshet Chayil?” Online publication of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), thetorah.com. June 2014.

How Should One Teach ‘Introduction to Jewish Studies’?” AJS Perspectives. Fall 2014.

“‘Her Name was Tamar’: Invasive, Destructive, Redemptive” Online publication of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), thetorah.com. December 2017.

“Voice and Presence in the Genesis Apocryphon.” A Genius for Mentorship: A Forum in Honor of Ben Wright on his 65th Birthday. Ancient Jew Review. January 2018.

Projects

Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms. The Ancient Word: New Discoveries in Religion and Language from the Biblical and Near Eastern World, ed. Seth L. Sanders. Routledge. Under contract.

Reframing Biblical Poetry. Anchor Bible Reference Library. Yale University Press. Under contract.

Hebrew and Aramaic Writings about the Dead from Judah and Judea: Eighth cent. BCE through First cent. BCE. Writings from the Ancient World, Society of Biblical Literature. (With Matthew Suriano). Under contract.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

Upcoming. (October 6, 2018) “Creation Stories and Cosmic Bodies: Ancient Literature and the Origins of Life.” Invited Lecture in Origins of Life Conference, Center for the Study of Origins, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Upcoming (October 5, 2018). “‘Neither add to it nor take away from it’: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Literature,” Symposium sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Upcoming (October 15, 2018). Job Market Panel. University of Chicago Divinity School.

Upcoming (November, 2018) “Composition through Character: Solomon’s Narrative Biography and The Excess of Speech,” in “The Wisdom of Solomon at the Crossroads of Wisdom, Apocalypticism, and Philosophy,” Wisdom and Apocalypticism session. Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting.

Upcoming (December, 2018) “Totalizing Description in Biblical Literature: From Literary Device to Self Boundary,” in Re-reading the Self: Reflection’s Dynamics. Association for Jewish Studies Annual Meeting.

Memberships

Society of Biblical Literature

Association for Jewish Studies

Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS), external member

Jacqueline Vayntrub

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