To the two things that are certain in life, death and taxes, I would add foiled grand plans. My grand plan was to survey recent dissertations that discuss various aspects of purity in rabbinic literature – it seems that purity is the new fad now in rabbinics – but I haven’t gotten around to reading all of them yet.
Instead, in the interim, I present to you some short observations on the new books section at the Mt. Scopus library.
1. Ben Dunning’s Specters of Paul is fascinating. Just like Rosen-Zvi’s work on Sotah, Dunning is not content with merely pointing out androcentrism in Paul. Instead, he asks himself what this androcentrism is and what it does. He finds that androcentrism takes on many shapes and forms in Paul, amounting to a cacophony of voices in the Pauline corpus on what women are, what we can do with them, what sex, gender and “sexual difference” (apparently a term coined by Luce Irigaray) do in various parts of the corpus, and how these rifts played out in the work of later readers of Paul. Dunning’s interest and focus on these later readers is refreshing, and is thankfully removed from the Protestant turn towards the “Original” texts and their intent. His focus on the contemporary politics of his readings of Paul – and of course the politics of reading Paul at all, what with his being blamed for everything bad that befell the Jews, ever – is a bit overbearing.
2. Liah Keshet wrote a dissertation under Yaakov Zussman on the Aggada of the Yerushalmi. She created a corpus of Aggadot in y. Maas. Shen. and Maas. and contrasted them with the Aggadot in y. Nezikin. The methodology might be a bit dubious – she says as much herself, asking what an aggada is and how we should collect them – but the result is a wonderful edition and commentary on large swaths of Yerushalmi, performed meticulously and cleanly in Zussman-like style, copious notes and all.
3. Paul’s Jewish Matrix is a collection of articles edited by Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor that comprises a collection of essays of varying quality on Jewish (“Judaic”) elements in Paul. Menachem Kister is conspicuously absent from the list of authors, which does include Daniel Schwartz on a possible halakhic reading of Romans 14:14 and Shaye Cohen on a similar kind of reading of Paul’s stance on intermarriage. As Yair Furstenburg noted in a comment at the Talmud Blog’s “Academy” (editor’s note: stay tuned for an announcement about this exciting pilot project), there is still much to discover in Paul as far as his halakhic and other Jewish heritage is concerned. This book is not yet the collection of essays that would tackle that problem.
4. Back to reception studies, The Sword of Judith is a delightful panoply of articles on the reception and transmission of the Judith story in the Jewish, Christian, and dramatic traditions (yes, you read that right). It is an interesting approach, bringing together surveys that are very text-oriented (e.g. Deborah L. Gera’s “The Jewish Textual Traditions” with a list of medieval Jewish Judith stories) with the more esoteric, such as “Judith in Baroque Oratorio” (David Marsh). I wonder if there is any possibility for these kinds of studies in other areas – perhaps a book on rabbinics in Israeli film? An study of the reception of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1950s Israel? Roni Shweka, perhaps?
Hopefully, soon, I will make time for the five dissertations that await their rightful place in the blog post about them, entitled “Purity and Dissertation.”