Tag Archives: Oxford

Oxford’s Greek Scriptures and the Rabbis Conference

Here’s a picture of participants in Oxford’s Greek Scripture and the Rabbis conference last Friday. We’re standing in front of the fireplace in the Long Gallery at Yarnton Manor, which is original to the late 16th century building and has the original crest from the Spencer family of Princess Diana fame. See who you can spot.


Greek Scripture and the Rabbis Conference

It’s been mentioned over at Evangelical Textual Criticism and I thought I’d echo the plug for the upcoming conference associated with Alison Salvesen’s Greek Scripture and the Rabbis seminar. The conference takes place next Friday from 10 am until around 4 pm. £5 for students and £10 for everyone else, if you want to participate in the lunch. The morning session should be phenomenal.

Tessa Rajak on Josephus’ Rewritten Bible

Today I attended the first ever public seminar of the European Seminar on Advanced Jewish Studies. Martin Goodman and Alison Salvesen convened the session, and Tessa Rajak spoke on the Vorlage of Josephus’ rewritten Bible. Her paper was basically a revision of some doctoral work she had done long ago. She argued that Josephus seems to have used either a primarily Hebrew Vorlage with some secondary Greek readings thrown in, or a primary Greek Vorlage with some secondary Hebrew readings thrown in.

In the discussion portion Emanuel Tov pounced on this dichotomy and asked Tessa to choose one or the other (he advocates a primarily Greek Vorlage). Tessa could point to several verses which demanded a Greek origin, but admitted she could not point to any that demanded a Hebrew source. Good times.

European Seminar on Advanced Jewish Studies

I had dinner last night with about thirty people who are in some way or another involved with the European Seminar on Advanced Jewish Studies. The seminars are being held at Oxford this year, with two different topics. Alison Salvesen is coordinating “Greek Scripture and the Rabbis,” and Joanna Weinberg is coordinating “The Reading of Hebrew and Jewish Texts in the Early Modern Period.”

I particularly enjoyed speaking with Tessa Rajak, who is incredibly fun, and a young scholar named Reinhart Ceulemans, from Leuven, who Alison Salvesen said was the smartest person she’s ever met. Emanuel Tov arrives at the manor today, and Anneli Aejmelaeus should arrive next week.

Jewish Art and Dialoguing with Christians

I recently returned from attending tonight’s David Patterson Seminar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. The presenter was Aaron Rosen, a colorful Oxford fellow with a DPhil from Cambridge who lectures here on modern Jewish art. He has joined our small group of masters students at the local pubs a few times and and recently published a book entitled Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj. Tonight’s lecture focused on the use of Christian symbols in the art of Chagall, Rothko, and Kitaj.

Particularly interesting to me was the work of Chagall, who, according to this presentation, seems to have appropriated the crucifixion as a symbol of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, with the resurrection a sign of hope for a rebirth of Jewish self-identity. He also used it as an “indicment against Christianity,” according to Rosen. The painting below, White Crucifixion, is intended to criticize the Christian use of the crucifixion as a source of anti-Semitism. Aaron tells us the man in the lower left with the white plaque on his chest originally had “Ich bin Juden” written on it, but it was removed in an effort to make the painting accessible to a wider audience, and perhaps even specifically to Christians. I found the talk captivating and was totally unaware of this dynamic of Jewish art in the last century. If you enjoy art and have never been exposed to Jewish art before, I recommend checking out his book.

John Day on Berossus’ Account of the Flood

I sat in a tiny classroom today on the upper floor of Oxford’s Theology Faculty building with Stephanie Dalley, Nicolas Wyatt, and several others, listening to John Day read a paper he will be publishing shortly. The paper treated the flood account of the Babylonian priest Berossus and its relationship to P’s account from Genesis. Day’s argument was basically that four connections lead us to conclude that both accounts were drawing (at vastly different time periods) from some of the same source material, which was not utilized by older Mesopotamian accounts, like Gilgamesh or Atrahasis:

1 – Berossus and P both give precise dates for the beginning of the flood (P’s is two days after Berossus’). Early scholarship presumes P is using an autmnal calendar when it actually has the new year in the spring, and so missed the connection.

2 – Berossus and P both have the ark landing in modern Armenia (Prof. Day went on a tangent about the fact that P mentions the region of Ararat, not a specific mountain). The other accounts have the ark landing further southeast along the current border between Iran and Iraq.

3 – Berossus and P both describe the ark as having a shape similar to a real boat, rather than the older accounts’ perfect cube.

4 – The flood hero is cited as the last in a list of ten long-lived ante-diluvial men. Enoch and Berossus’ equivalent Emmeduranki are both 7th on the list. The other lists have varied numbers of heros.

Some took issue with Prof. Day’s paper, wondering, for instance, what to do with J’s section of the flood narrative and the similarities with Berossus, what to do with the fact that Berossus’ list of ante-diluvial heros may simply have two different spellings of a single name (and so not really add to 10), and so forth. Prof. Day seemed happy to take correction and was cordial throughou. I thought it was an interesting look into how these scholars interact with each other in a setting like this.


My Oxford matriculation was Saturday. The ceremony was relatively short. Part of it was in Latin. It was held in the Sheldonian Theatre, which is shown in the photo (not my own picture). I was on the ground level. Stop.