Beyond Exegesis: Psalms in the Cultures of Ancient Jews and Early Christians

18 June, 2024

We are deeply honoured to welcome Professor AJ Berkovitz, Assistant Professor of Ancient Judaism at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, to lead a session of the Psalms in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group.

Here are the details of this fascinating event.

Topic: Beyond Exegesis: Psalms in the Cultures of Ancient Jews and Early Christians

Abstract: How did the inhabitants of the ancient world interact with their sacred literature? Scholars of biblical reception tend to answer this question by focusing on exegesis, how society’s elites rendered a text meaningful and impactful. The history of book of Psalms offers another vista. This talk adopts the methodological imperatives of cultural history, book history, and the history of reading to survey some of the textual as well as material evidence for the reception of the Psalms in antiquity and to reframe aspects of the study of late ancient Judaism and early Christianity. It will explore how the scroll and codex shaped Jewish and Christian material reception and imagination of the Psalms. And it will also suggest a model for Jewish-Christian interaction that moves beyond learned scriptural polemic. As a whole, the talk synthesizes several strands of argument found in Prof Berkovitz’s recently published book, A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity.

Speaker: Professor AJ Berkovitz, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, USA

Speaker’s biography: Professor AJ Berkovitz is a scholar of Antiquity who writes about Jewish texts, traditions, and history from the formation of the Hebrew Bible until the rise of Islam. He received his Ph.D. in Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity from Princeton University. His first book, A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity (University of Pennsylvania) received a Jordan Schnitzer First Book Publication Award from the Association for Jewish Studies. He is the co-editor of Rethinking ‘Authority’ in Late Antiquity: Authorship, Law, and Transmission in Jewish and Christian Tradition (Routledge, 2018) and the author of twenty academic publications as well as fifteen public-facing essays. His recent article in the AJS Review, “Psalm 45 Between Abraham and Jesus: A Palestinian Rabbinic Polemic and its Shelf Life,” was awarded the 2021 CRINT Prize Essay. He was a Starr Fellow at Harvard University and currently teaches at HUC-JIR.

Chair: Professor Anna Sapir Abulafia FBA, Professor Emerita of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford

Time:  18:00-19:00 BST | 19:00-20:00 CEST | 10:00-11:00 PDT | 13:00-14:00 EDT

Venue: Online

If you would like to join the Psalms in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group, please sign up here.

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