Hebrew Bible Through the Ages
For Professor David Lambert, studying the Hebrew Bible means much more than simply reading the ancient text. He extends his study to explore how the Bible is interpreted through the ages, and how different cultural assumptions alter how people approach the Bible.
Lambert, who joined Carolina’s Department of Religious Studies in July as assistant professor of Hebrew Bible, is the newest member of the Center’s Jewish Studies faculty. He specializes in the Hebrew Bible, its history of interpretation, and Second Temple Judaism. He also has interests in early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.
Lambert initially planned to pursue study of medieval Jewish history, but while an undergraduate at Harvard, he became interested in how Jews in the Middle Ages dealt with certain realities that disturbed them in the Bible, which is the product, after all, of an ancient society that existed almost two millenia earlier. From this, his interest in the Bible and how it has been understood and construed has continued to grow.
“I am excited to join the faculty at Carolina and look forward to working in a Religious Studies department that provides a non-denominational context in which to study the Hebrew Bible,” said Lambert. “There are very few faculty positions in my field that are in academic departments such as this, rather than in schools of divinity or theology.”
This fall, Lambert is
teaching “Introduction to
the Hebrew Bible” to over
200 undergraduates. “I am excited that the course is attracting such a
large number of students,” said Lambert, who cites the long-standing history of studying religion at Carolina as a big attraction to come to Chapel Hill.“My hope is that students will learn to identify some of the
different ways in which our cultural background affects how we read the Bible and to contrast our initial, instinctual readings with possible alternatives.” Toward fostering such a dialogue, the course will focus on three broad topics: how God is viewed in the Bible, the role of law, and the idea of redemption.
In the spring, he plans to offer some new courses to
Carolina’s undergraduates. One, “What is Scripture?”,
will examine how a certain group of ancient works came
together to become “Scripture” and what people have
understood the idea of “Scripture,” its form and purpose, to
be over the history of the West. Another will focus on terms in the Bible that we understand as depicting emotion—love, jealousy, pity. Did people in ancient times experience emotion in much the same way as we do?
Lambert is currently completing a book, “Before
Repentance,” which explores whether the idea of repentance
really operates in the Bible, as most have assumed.“The word repentance actually does not appear in the
Hebrew Bible. In the post-biblical
period, as repentance takes
on new significance, people come to read repentance into the Bible, developing new understandings of certain Hebrew terms and a variety of ancient Israelite practices, such as fasting and confession.”
Professor Lambert previously taught at the
University of Texas at Austin and was a post-doctoral
fellow at Yale. He received an A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard
University in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and
Flora Cassen will join Carolina’s History department next academic year as the JMA and Sonja Van der Horst Fellow in Jewish History and Culture. She previously was an assistant professor at the University of Vermont and this academic year she holds a fellowship at Columbia University. Her research focus is Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History. She holds a B.A. from the Free University of Brussels, an M.A. from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in History and Judaic Studies from New York University.
The JMA and Sonja van der Horst Distinguished Professorship was established by the children of the late Johannes and Sonja van der Horst (Charles van der Horst, Roger van der Horst, Jacqueline van der Horst Sergent’82, and Tatjana chwendinger) with reparation funds that were awarded to their mother.
Jonathan Boyarin, who joined Carolina’s Department of Religious Studies in 2007 as the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, has been appointed associate director for the Center. He will work with Jonathan Hess on long-range planning for the Center, curriculum development, fund raising and public outreach.
Events for 2010-2011
The Center has announced its public event series for the new academic year.
Advisory Board Members
Four members of the Center’s Advisory Board have rotated off the
board after serving terms since 2002: Barry Schochet, Harvey Colchamiro, Jay Schwartz and Gary Kaminsky. Their enthusiasm and support through the years has been tremendous and will be missed.
Joining the Advisory Board this year are Rhonda Silver of New Jersey, Lori B. Wittlin of Washington, D.C. and Gary J. Kaminsky of New York (no relation to the other Gary Kaminsky).
This fall, the Carolina Center for Jewish
Studies is again starting off the academic
year with a bang, with new faculty, new
courses and an exciting menu of speakers
who will be visiting the campus in the
coming months. With a new faculty member in Hebrew Bible on campus and a new hire just made in Jewish history, we are getting close to the point when we can launch a comprehensive major in Jewish Studies. We’ll look forward to reporting on our plans for a B.A. in Jewish Studies in upcoming issues of News from the Center.
The ambitions we have for the Carolina
Center for Jewish Studies are not modest.
Indeed, we are well on our way to transforming
Carolina into one of the leading universities
in the nation where students can study
Jewish history and culture. Increasingly, incoming students are jumping at the new opportunities we are giving them, and they have come to expect distinguished excellence in Jewish Studies from a truly great
university like Carolina. Please know how grateful all of us who work and teach at Carolina are for your inspiring support. We know that the amazing success story of the Center would be unimaginable without each
and every gift. Thanks so much for your investment in the future of Jewish Studies at Carolina!
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