Liane Marquis – Tuesday Jan. 16th @ 5 pm – Swift 208

Dear all,

Please join us next Tuesday, Jan. 16th at 5 pm in Swift 208 for a practice job talk by Liane Marquis (PhD Candidate, Divinity). She will speak on “Sibling Rivalry and Sacrifice: Law, Narrative and the Making of Theory in Leviticus 9–10.”
Refreshments (יין ושכר) will be served at (על פני) the workshop (אהל מועד). We look forward to seeing all of you (העדה)!
Please write for accessibility concerns.

Winter 2018 Schedule

Dear workshop attendees,
Here’s wishing everyone a happy new year with hopes that you had a restful or perhaps productive winter break. We have an exciting quarter ahead in the Hebrew Bible Workshop, so please mark your calendars with the following dates.
We are especially pleased to welcome on February 20th Prof. Baruch J. Schwartz, Associate Professor in the Department of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and for this quarter the Greenberg Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies in the University of Chicago Divinity School. Please join us as we welcome Prof. Schwartz, and we also hope you can join us for stimulating presentations by four of our peers in the doctoral program.
The full schedule for this quarter is as follows:
Tuesday, January 16th – Swift 208 – 5 pm: Liane Marquis, PhD Candidate in Hebrew Bible (Divinity), presenting on “Sibling Rivalry and Sacrifice: Law, Narrative and the Making of Theory in Leviticus 9–10.” This is a practice job talk, so feedback will be much appreciated!
Monday, January 22nd – Swift 208 – 5 pm: David Ridge, PhD Student in Hebrew Bible (Divinity), presenting on “The Betrothal Type-Scene in 2 Samuel 11.”
Monday, February 5th – Swift 106 – 5 pm: Cathleen Chopra-McGowan, PhD Student in Hebrew Bible (Divinity), presenting on Lamentations 3.
Monday, February 12th (co-sponsored with the Jewish Studies Workshop) – Cobb 110 – 5 pm: Aslan Cohen, PhD Student in Hebrew Bible (Divinity), presenting on “Ezekiel: A Man of Letters.”
Tuesday, February 20th – Swift 208 – 5 pm: Baruch J. Schwartz, Visiting Greenberg Professor of Jewish Studies, presenting on “Deuteronomy 31: Its Composition and its Significance for How the Pentateuch Ends.”
More information, including talk titles and abstracts, will be circulated closer to each date.
If you are interested in presenting your research at the workshop in the Spring quarter, please write We are looking forward to seeing you this quarter!
For accessibility concerns, please write

CFP: Middle Eastern History and Theory Conference

Dear workshop attendees,

Please note the following CFP for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ annual Middle Eastern History and Theory Conference, which may be relevant to some of your areas of interest:

Call for Papers

33rd Annual Middle East History & Theory Conference

The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

May 4-5, 2018

Submission Deadline: February 2, 2018

We invite proposals for papers and pre-arranged panels from graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars about the Middle East from the sixth century c.e. to the present day, including but not limited to history, religious studies, geography, anthropology, political science, literary studies, philosophy, art history, and media studies. We also encourage submissions related to the theme of this year’s conference, the intersection of Digital Humanities and pedagogy in contemporary Middle Eastern studies.

The keynote speaker of this year’s conference is Professor James Gelvin (University of California, Los Angeles), whose address will be entitled, “Theorizing Nationalism in the Arab Middle East: A Personal Story.”

Please send submissions electronically to, no later than Friday, February 2, 2018. For further details, refer to the offical CFP document (Call For Papers – MEHAT 2018) or visit:

Please circulate widely! For questions and accessibility concerns, please write to

With all the best wishes,

Joseph Cross & Carl Bryant Shook, 2018 Conference Coordinators

11/27 @ 5:30 pm: Stefan Schorch visits

Dear colleagues,

Please join us on Monday, Nov. 27th at 5:30 pm (Swift 208) for a talk by Prof. Stefan Schorch (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg – personal website) on “Written and Oral Transmission of the Samaritan Torah, and the Challenges of a Critical Edition”:

The Samaritan Pentateuch differs from the Masoretic text of the Torah in multiple and multifarious textual details. Although many of these differences seem to originate in the textual and dialectal diversity prevailing in 4th-2nd century BCE Palestine, their earliest attestation in Samaritan manuscripts and in the Samaritan oral reading of the Torah is mostly much younger (the earliest dated manuscripts of SP come from the 12th century, the earliest recordings of Samaritan Hebrew dates to the late 19th century). Moreover, the peculiarities of Samaritan manuscript culture and the Samaritan Hebrew dialect influenced the written and oral transmission of the Samaritan Torah, and the analysis and assessment of the Samaritan Pentateuch therefore require close attention to these characteristic contexts. Proceeding from an introduction into the Samaritan Torah, Samaritan manuscript culture, and Samaritan Hebrew, the presentation will demonstrate, with the help of samples from a forthcoming critical edition, how these challenges can be be resolved in order to make the Samaritan Torah accessible and to create a reliable basis for its further research.
Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to if you plan on attending. We look forward to seeing you there!

Conference session paper titles & abstracts

We hope you can join us on Wednesday, November 15th (4:30 pm, Swift Commons) for our practice SBL session. This year, we will hear papers on innovative approaches to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Isaiah, and the Song of Songs. Please see the following talk titles and descriptions:

Dr. Sarah Yardney, “Assessing Current Methods for Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A Quantitative Approach”:

Scholars reconstructing biblical Dead Sea Scrolls generally rely on one of two methods for estimating available space and testing options for reconstruction: a widely used older method, which uses character count; and a newer method, proposed by Edward Herbert, which calculates the average width of each character in a particular scribal hand and uses those averages. This paper will argue that although Herbert’s method is a modest improvement over the older approach, both fail to consistently predict how long a line of text will be with accuracy. Thus in many cases, neither method for estimating available space in a scroll is precise enough to allow scholars to assess potential reconstructions with confidence. This argument relies on a quantitative comparison between computer-aided measurements of photographed scrolls and estimates of line lengths produced by the two current scholarly methods.

Marshall Cunningham, “Isaiah 40:1–2: Divine Commissioning and a “Return” to Jerusalem”:

The plural imperatives that open Deutero-Isaiah’s speech to his Babylonian community in 40.1–2 have long challenged interpreters. Whom is the deity addressing through the prophet’s speech? Because ch. 40 constitutes the beginning of a new composition, Isa 40–48 (following Haran), the apparent lack of a clear addressee presents an interpretive crux for how the work as a whole should be understood. Both the translators of the LXX and the Targumin were troubled by this absence and so interpolated explicit addressees–priests and prophets, respectively–to remedy the problem. Against the standard interpretation, which problematically takes the members of the divine council as the addressees of these imperatives, I present a new reading that argues that the deity is in fact addressing the members of Deutero-Isaiah’s Babylonian community. Verses 1–2 serve to commission this community, identified throughout the composition as Jacob/Israel, to the role of royal herald, charged with announcing Yahweh’s victory over Babylon and his triumphant return to his capital city. This interpretation makes better sense of these verses’ immediate literary context–a royal procession from Babylonia to Judah–and the greater composition of which it is a part, as well as the prophet’s historical context. The new evidence from Al–Ya?udu suggests communities of displaced Judeans could find themselves quickly adapting to their new Babylonian surroundings. Members of these communities owned property and slaves, participated in local commerce with Judeans and non-Judeans alike, and conformed to Babylonian custom in social practices like marriage. This degree of economic, political, and social embeddedness helps to explain Deutero-Isaiah’s strong rhetorical efforts to persuade his audience to leave their homes in Babylonia throughout the composition. The commissioning in 40.1–2 therefore functions as an extraordinary motivator for an embedded audience; the deity tasks his people–addressed as ‘ammî in v. 1aß–not only with returning to Jerusalem; he also charges them to announce the good news of Yahweh’s victory and return to the fallen city.

Kelli Gardner, “Flowing with Milk and Honey: Body as Landscape in the Song of Songs”:

Throughout the Pentateuch, the land of Canaan, promised to Abraham’s descendants, is described as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Despite the frequency of its use and the centrality of its referent, commentators have paid relatively little attention to this recurrent phrase, often dismissing it as merely a clichéd or hyperbolic metaphor. As a result, there has been very little consideration of this characterization’s metaphorical meaning and associations. In this paper, I will suggest that this ubiquitous characterization of the promised land is a metaphor that understands the land in terms of a fertile female body, a regular emitter of liquids throughout her childbearing years. While this fluidic physiological reality of the female body is depicted throughout the Hebrew Bible, it is in the poetic text of the Song of Songs that the details and delights of the female body are explicitly associated with milk and honey and repeatedly described as flowing and fragrant. Through a close examination of the metaphorical descriptions of the female body in the Song of Songs as liquid landscape (Song 4:12-16; 5:2-5) and fragrant foodscape (Song 4:10-11; 5:1; 7:3), this presentation will argue that the woman in the Song of Songs, who is herself figured as flowing with milk and honey, exemplifies and augments the metaphorical logic at work in the pentateuchal association between fertile female bodies and productive landscapes.


Thursday, 11/16: Prof. Tova Ganzel visits

On Thursday, November 15th, at 4:30 pm (Swift Common Room), we are pleased to welcome Prof. Tova Ganzel (Bar-Ilan) who will present her paper entitled “‘The Rabbis Sought to Withdraw the Book of Ezekiel’: Rabbinic Responses to the Challenges Posed by the Book of Ezekiel”:

An examination of references to the book of Ezekiel in rabbinic literature reveals a complex attitude toward this work. On the one hand, this book is quoted in almost all the tractates of the BT; on the other hand, three sources call for its withdrawal from circulation, both because of contradictions with the Pentateuch (especially in chapters 40-48) and the dangers of its mystical chapters. We will discuss the methods, mainly exegetical, employed by the rabbis to avoid its withdrawal from circulation and Ezekiel’s status as a prophet, priest, and lawmaker in rabbinic eyes.

Please see the attached document which Prof. Ganzel kindly provided which includes the sources she will be using for her talk: ganzel The Rabbis Sought to Withdraw the Book of Ezekiel handout 27-10-2er5xib

Refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, 11/15: Conference paper session

Please join us on Wednesday, 11/15 at 4:30 pm in Swift 201 for the next meeting of the Hebrew Bible Workshop. We will welcome Dr. Sarah Yardney (PhD ’17), as well as Marshall Cunningham and Kelli Gardner, two PhD candidates in Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School. All will be presenting their papers for the upcoming SBL conference, and will appreciate input and constructive criticism. Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, Oct. 10th: Robert Holmstedt, “Parallelism, R.I.P— The Syntax of Biblical Hebrew Poetry”

*** Room change: the seminar will now meet in Swift 208 ***

Dear colleagues,

Please join the Hebrew Bible Workshop on Tuesday, October 10th at 12:30 pm in Swift 208 for Prof. Robert Holmstedt (Toronto), who will present his paper “Parallelism, R.I.P— The Syntax of Biblical Hebrew Poetry”:

“In typical scholarly fashion, a model that has been known to be a descriptive failure for a century continues to be taught to unsuspecting students of the Bible and used in commentaries to little good end. What is it about the poetic “parallelism” first described by Robert Lowth in the 18th century that makes it an affliction more unshakeable than the common cold? Michael O’Connor (whose 1980 opus, Hebrew Verse Structure, provides a compelling linguistically grounded description of the poetic line) has called the endurance of Lowthian parallelism a “horror” that wreaks havoc on lexical semantics and “is beyond the comprehension of any sensitive student of language.” In this study I offer a poetic convention grounded in widely attested grammatical structures to replace the unworkable parallelism, which we may now provide with a proper burial.”

Workshop attendees are encouraged 1. to read Professor Holmstedt’s paper ahead of time, and then 2. to prepare the following Psalms, which will be discussed in a seminar-type setting, with the paper in mind: Psalms 4, 23, 67, 84, 93, 108, 114, 121, 124, and 134.

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP to me at to receive a PDF of the paper if you are planning on attending.

Finally, you may be interested in attending a lecture by Prof. Holmstedt on the previous day (Monday the 9th) at Wheaton College, at the college’s Archaeology Lecture Series. His talk is entitled “Palaeography, History, and the Power of Naming: The World’s Oldest Alphabet is … Hebrew?”, and the topic will be Petrovich’s recent, controversial claims concerning the Hebrew language and the first alphabet. For more information, email

Looking forward to seeing everyone!