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This book is an analysis of early Jewish thought on human nature, specifically, the complex of characteristics that are understood to be universally innate, and/or God-given, to collective humanity and the manner which they depict human existence in relationship, or lack thereof, to God.
Jewish discourse in the Greco-Roman period (4th c. BCE until 1st c. CE) on human nature was not exclusively particularistic, although the immediate concern was often communal-specific. Evidence shows that many of these these discussions were also an attempt to grasp a general, or universal, human nature. The focus of this work has been narrowed to three categories that encapsulate the most prevalent themes in Second Temple Jewish texts, namely, creation, composition, and condition.
Author: Marc Michaels
In Sefer Tagin Fragments from the Cairo Genizah, Marc Michaels transcribes and recreates fragments of arguably the earliest found manuscript of the manual for sofrim (scribes) concerning the decorative tagin (tittles) and 'strange' letter forms that adorn certain words in the Torah. Comparing these found fragments from the Cairo Genizah that now reside in the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection at Cambridge University Library against the other core and secondary sources of Sefer Tagin (including several pages of a new secondary source also from Cambridge), Michaels establishes the most likely readings to assist the reconstruction of the fragments and shed light on the original intention of the author of Sefer Tagin.
The Textual History of the Bible (THB) brings together for the first time all available information regarding the manuscripts, textual history and character of each book of the Hebrew Bible and its translations as well as the deuterocanonical scriptures. In addition, THB covers the history of research, the editorial history of the Hebrew Bible, as well as other aspects of text-critical research and its subsidiary fields, such as papyrology, codicology, and the related discipline of linguistics. The THB will consist of 4 volumes.

Volume 2: Deuterocanonical Scriptures. Editors Matthias Henze and Frank Feder
Vol. 2A: overview articles
Vol. 2B: to Ezra
Vol. 2C: Jubilees to 16 Appendix
Author: Robert Jones

Abstract

This paper evaluates the attitudes toward the contemporary Jerusalem priesthood and cult on evidence in the Visions of Amram. To the extent that this issue has been treated, scholars have generally argued that the Visions of Amram originated among groups that were hostile to the Aaronid priesthood. Such treatments, however, have left some of the most germane fragments unexamined, several of which deal directly with matters pertaining to the cult, Aaron, and his offspring (4Q547 5 1–3; 8 2–4; 9 5–7; 4Q545 4 16–19). My study incorporates these fragments into the larger discussion, and in so doing demonstrates that many of the views expressed in the secondary literature require revision. My analysis shows that, though the social location of the Visions of Amram is difficult to determine, we should not be too quick to dismiss the possibility that the writer was a supporter of the contemporary status quo in the temple, given the elevated status afforded to both Aaron and his eternal posterity throughout the text.

In: Dead Sea Discoveries

Abstract

This study examines the respective theological assumptions of two major forces in nineteenth-century Judaism—the Musar and the early Hasidic movements, and the way in which the budding concept of the unconscious illuminates both. Often translated as an ethical approach, the Musar movement originated from Lithuania and focused on Torah study as it deemed Talmud insufficient to create a deep, emotional attachment to Judaism; yet, despite their shared emphasis on emotions and their criticism of talmudic studies, the Musar movement was at odds with Hasidism, the mystical Jewish current that swept Eastern Europe from the eighteenth century onward. Through an examination of the biblical motif of the binding of Isaac, and the reaction of Abraham, this article will probe both movements’ analysis of the patriarch’s psychological make up. Such a comparison of their understanding of the pre-conscious psychic states will illustrate the nature of their theological opposition.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
Author: Jonathan Garb

Abstract

Perhaps the key term in musar writing is yir’ah. In early modern musar texts, usually incorporating kabbalistic discourse, this term is rendered as ‘fear.’ A striking exception is R. Moshe Ḥayyim Luzzatto’s Mesillat Yesharim, arguably one of the canonical texts of Jewish modernity. A close reading of the chapters devoted to yir’ah reveals that Luzzatto frames this term as ‘awe,’ moving away from the discourse on punishment and hell typical of early modern musar. An examination of the psychology behind this move shows that Luzzatto associates fear with the lower instinct of self-preservation, calling for its sublimation into self-abnegation in awe of divine presence. Mesillat Yesharim then became foundational for similar moves in later Jewish modernity. Without wishing to venture into claims as to inter-religious influence and response, it is instructive to compare Luzzatto’s approach to that of his Christian contemporaries, the ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers of the Great Awakening.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
Author: Elke Morlok

Abstract

Isaac ben Moshe Halevi (Isaac Satanow, 1732–1804) serves as an interesting example of how Jewish intellectuals offered alternative ways of entering the new era. Unlike other authors, Satanow does not explicitly concentrate on secularization or assimilation in his writing, but instead intends to revive traditional values and writing by putting them into a new cultural and intellectual framework. Satanow combines relevant topics from Jewish tradition with scientific discoveries, philosophical reasoning, and kabbalistic thought. An analysis of Satanow’s unique combination of literary and intellectual corpora from various periods and backgrounds offers a more nuanced picture of European Jewish intellectual history and challenges the grand narratives of scholarship. Furthermore, an awareness of the deep impact of German philosophy and natural science on Satanow’s thought provides insight into his relationship with the majority culture and his Eastern European background and also shows how his concept of modernity seeped in via complex networks.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

Abstract

This article examines Judith’s prayer in chapter 9 of the book of Judith from the perspective of the guidelines on speech-in-character found in Aelius Theon’s Progymnasmata (mid/end of the first century CE). According to the guidelines, it is important for an author of prose to achieve correspondence between the literary persona and the actual speech-in-character. This article examines the extent to which Judith’s prayer in chapter 9 observes Theon’s guidelines, as well as the theological implications of this.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

Abstract

Josephus offers one of our most extensive sources for the study of ancient Judaism, and his treatment of the Samaritans is no exception. In this article, I synchronize attention to Josephus’ representations of Samaritans with the turn in Biblical Studies and Jewish Studies towards the contestation of ancient “Israel” throughout antiquity. First, I argue that we see more clearly how Josephus actively constructs Samaritan identity by comparison to shared contestation of Israelite genealogy and geography in the Martyrdom of Isaiah, 4 Baruch, Pseudo-Philo, and Megillat Taʿanit. Second, I suggest that such an approach develops an alternative way to write ancient Jewish history with Josephus, incorporating his work into discussions of ancient Jewish self-representation beyond the choice between historical reality check or self-sustaining rhetoric.

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism