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August 8 2011, 5AM

I have moved this blog and consolidated it with my other websites. Please update any feeds and keep visiting, at http://www.mlsatlow.com! I look forward to seeing you there.

July 5, 11AM

I had the good fortune of recently attending "The Enoch Seminar," which this year was devoted to study of the books of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. These two books are both thought to originate in first or second century Palestine, written in Hebrew by Jews. Bo...

May 18, 5AM

The phrase "Judeo-Christian" - as in, "America is based on Judeo-Christian values" - is a strange beast. Given the not insignificant and often fatal tension between Jews and Christians over 2,000 years over matters of doctrine and belief, what does it mea...

May 2, 10AM

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a workshop at Yale University on the term "belief". The focus was on whether, how, and why "belief" remains a useful category for discussing and explaining religion today. The day of conversation was immen...

April 28, 7AM

In an essay discussing his new book, In Defense of Flogging, Peter Moskos wants to begin a conversation. Prisons, we all know, don’t work as well as we would all like. Around .5% of all Americans are currently in prison, an extraordinary number when...

April 18, 8AM

My essay on "The Pope, the Jews, and the Vatican Museums," was just posted online at "The Forward," and will appear in the next print edition.

April 12, 7AM

I recently watched an inspiring presentation by Professor Dan Cohen, entitled "The Ivory Tower and the Open Web." For some time I have been wondering if the web could be used to help develop an online a scholarly community that was relatively tightly fo...

April 5, 4PM

Of course not.This, I understand, parachutes me into an area that I readily confess to know nothing about. There must be a scientific literature on this, and I am sure that there are passionate dog owners who are positive that their dogs possess free-wil...

April 1, 9AM

The following announcement will soon be going out widely. Please feel free to circulate!Workshop Call for PapersFebruary 13-14, 2012Brown UniversityThe Program in Judaic Studies in collaboration with the Brown University Library’s Center for Digital Sc...

March 30, 5AM

Yes. Kind of. Maybe.Thus is the status quaestionis as it emerged from a mini-symposium at Harvard University yesterday. Firmly on one side of the question was Shaye Cohen and Moshe Halbertal. Both pointed to the radical difference between the Mishnah ...

March 29, 7AM

Academic conferences tend to peter out. The time is late; all are tired; even some of the panelists have already left for home. There is thus often little time or energy at the end for reflection, synthesis, and robust discussion. The Talmuda de’Eret...

March 28, 7PM

Today was a full day of papers. So without further ado:Shawn Zelig Aster, Yeshiva University, Mishnah Baba Metzia 7,7 and the Distribution of the Phoenician Jar: The Relationship of Mishnaic Hebrew to Northern Biblical Hebrew and to PhoenicianUsing the m...

March 27, 7PM

This week Yeshivah University is hosting a 2-day conference entitled, Talmuda de-Eretz Israel: Archaeology and the Rabbis in Late Antiquity. Here is a report on day 1:Eric Meyers, Duke University, The Use of Archaeology in Understanding Rabbinic Material...

March 7, 5PM

Over half a century ago, the great Jewish historian Salo Baron famously declared an end to the lachrymose view of Jewish history. By this he meant that prior Jewish historians had an almost unremittingly bleak view of Jewish history. Jews, in these narr...

February 23, 3PM

The traditional legal definition of a Jew is well-known: the child of a Jewish mother or a convert. Sure, there is a little fuzziness around the edges as Orthodox Jews in Israel in particular debate what makes a kosher conversion, and whether conversions...

February 11, 2PM

Last month I saw the exhibit Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. What was particularly interesting to me about this exhibit was the chronological progression. The earliest, Renaissance and early modern w...

January 23, 9AM

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik discusses the modern dessert. His investigation soon took him to Spain, where he talked with with some of the most widely admired pastry chefs in the world. While Gopnik doesn't quite frame his own essay ...

January 20, 9AM

I recently finished teaching a four-class course on the Book of Psalms to medium security inmates of our state ACI (Adult Correctional Institute). The course was organized through a student group at Brown. The reasons I choose to do this are too complex...

January 5, 6PM

I have long been interested in ways in which modern technology can enhance what I do, as a scholar and a teacher. In the classroom I have used podcasts and wikis, and I continue to work on a digital collection of inscriptions from Israel/Palestine that d...

December 22 2010, 2PM

In this episode I discuss the historical formation of the Torah, or Pentateuch, and provide an introduction to the documentary hypothesis. I am now receiving technical support from Brown University, and the quality of the audio is improved.The episode ca... [Judaism] [Bible] [old testament] [Jewish History] [Jews]

November 9, 4AM

I just finished Albert Baumgarten's engaging biography of Elias Bickerman, Elias Bickerman as Historian of the Jews: A Twentieth Century Tale, which was also recently reviewed by Anthony Grafton in The Jewish Review of Books. In Baumgarten's telling, Bic...

October 25, 5AM

I had the pleasure this last week of listening to a lecture by Professor Carlos Eire, of Yale University. (Full dislosure: I was a colleague of Carlos's at University of Virginia, and in addition to finding him a supportive senior colleague, have follow...

October 20, 8AM

I just presented the Larry Axel Memorial Lecture at Purdue University. The talk was entitled, "Big Givers: The Origins of Jewish Philanthropy." The publicity paragraph reads: Whether by naming buildings, erecting plaques, or publishing name-lists, our p...

September 8, 5AM

Tonight Rosh HaShanah begins. It is probably safe to say that many Jews associate the holiday with two theological themes. The first, emphasized especially in children's books and early Jewish educational settings, is the birthday of the world - the day...

June 9, 9AM

I've just spent a fascinating few days reading through Jewish ritual calendars luhot - that date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many of these calendars contain a short, one or two page, list of important Jewish historical events, dated fr...

May 26, 11AM

My article, "Fruit and the Fruit of Fruit: Charity and Piety among Jews in Late Antique Palestine" has just appeared the Jewish Quarterly Review 100 (2010): 244-277. It can be accessed online here, with an institutional subscription.

May 18, 7AM

In the new Bevis Marks synagogue in London, in 1701, the hazan, or salaried prayer-leader, was fined for every mistake he made while reading from the Torah. The minute books of the synagogue record actual cases of fining the hazan. In his book, The Hist...

May 12, 5AM

I am happy to report a significant upgrade to the site, Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine. The site will eventually make accessible all of the published inscriptions from the region that date from the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

April 19, 6AM

Last Friday I delivered a plenary address at the NE regional SBL meeting in Newton, MA. Below is the text:Who Needs Theory? An Historian’s PolemicMichael SatlowI have to start with a confession: I hate plenary sessions. I’ve always disliked plenary...

April 9, 7AM

On May 2-4, 2010, Brown will be hosting a conference entitled "The Gift in Antiquity." The purpose of this conference is to use the theoretical frame of the "gift" (especially as discussed by Marcel Mauss) as a way to explore a range of practices in anti...

April 7, 1PM

I have always been interested in how real people lived their lives; how they negotiated the quotidian demands and stresses that accompany all human societies. I like intellectual history, but one of the real joys of my job is seeing how ideas work in the...

January 21, 7AM

I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast series.As I explain in the last podcast episode, I did not set out to create this series in order to make money. I have enjoyed what I have learned throughout the process of making the series as well as hearing f...
The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, a moment that typically is said to mark in Jewish historiography the end of the "second temple period" and beginning of the "rabbinic period." But to what extent did things really change?In this episode, the la...

January 14, 7AM

The Jewish revolt in Judea that began in 66 CE ended with the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70. Why, though, did the Jews in Judea and the Galilee revolt? And why did the Romans destroy the Temple?The episode can be heard here or on the pla...

November 23 2009, 12 PM

This episode focuses on the years 6 CE - 66 CE, and the events leading up to the Jewish revolt. This episode includes discussions of Roman administration and the Sanhedrin.The episode can be heard here or on the player below. More download options are he...

November 3, 9AM

Without the works of the historian Josephus (36/37 CE - ca. 95) we would know little about the history of the Jews in antiquity. Yet Josephus, as a historian and a man, was a complex figure: was he a Jewish patriot or a Roman toady?The episode can be hear...

October 13, 2PM

In the first century CE the area around Jerusalem teemed with small Jewish religious groups, or sects. This episode focuses on three of the most well-known of these groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, and the early followers of Jesus.The episode is available he...

September 29, 9AM

What are the Dead Sea scrolls? This episode discusses their discovery, contents, and meaning.The episode can be heard here or on the player below. More download options are here. The podcast can also be heard on iTunes.

August 3, 6AM

It is time for a break.Episodes will be forthcoming on topics such as the Dead Sea Scrolls; the development of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes;the early followers of Jesus; the worsening political conditions in Judea; and the destruction of the Temple i...
Philo Judaeus is the most well-known Jewish philosopher from antiquity. Living in Alexandria from ca. 20 BCE - 50 CE, Philo produced an astonishing corpus that has often been held up as a signal example of "Hellenistic Judaism." Who was Philo, and what wa...

July 21, 10AM

Was Herod the Great a brilliant ruler or a savage brute? This episode traces Herod's rise to power and his reign, 40 - 4 BCE.The episode can be heard here, or on the player below. More download options are here. It can also be heard on iTunes.

July 8, 9AM

The religion of the Jews who lived in the Greek speaking areas of the Mediterranean is commonly called "Hellenistic Judaism". This episode explains why scholars use this term; why it is less useful than it might seem; and how it is that most of these Jews...

June 26, 8AM

On the origins of Jewish sectarianism in the second to first centuries, BCE, with a focus on Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and (if different) the first inhabitants of Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls would be found.The episode can be heard here, or on ...

June 17, 6AM

A discussion of Judah's consolidation of power around 162 BCE to the last of the Hasmonean kings, in 30 BCE.The episode can be heard here, or on the player below. More download options are here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.

May 27, 9AM

Why did the Maccabees revolt around 165 BCE? This episode explores both the revolt of the Maccabees and the origins of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.The episode can be heard here or on the player below; more download options are available here. The pod...

May 11, 6AM

A discussion of two books dating from the third or second centuries, BCE, Jubilees and 1 Enoch. Both books, part of a collection traditionally known as "the Pseudepigrapha," testify to a Jewish understanding of continuing direct divine revelation in the ...

April 12, 1PM

A discussion of Alexander's conquest of west Asia and its aftermath (323 - 200 BCE). What is "Hellenism," and how did the Jews react to it? Particular attention is paid to the Septuagint, Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiasticus.The podcast can be heard here; mo... [Judaism] [Seleucids] [Ecclesiastes] [Ptolemies] [Jewish History] [Ecclesiasticus] [Alexander] [religion] [hellenism] [academic] [Septuagint]

April 1, 5AM

This episode discusses two Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem, that represented by the biblical book of Esther, and that of Elephantine, Egypt. It takes place in the fifth to fourth centuries, BCE.The podcast can be heard here; more downloading opti...

March 12, 11AM

The seventh episode of the podcast, "From Israelite to Jew." This episode deals primarily with the career and reforms of Nehemiah, which lasted from 445 BCE to around 432 BCE. The podcast can be heard here; more downloading options are here. You can also...

February 12, 7PM

This is not an installment of "From Israelite to Jew," but is instead a reading of an essay recently published on Zeek, an online journal. The written version is here.This is a meditation on the Talmud as read through Tolstoy, and how such a reading can ... [Tolstoy] [Talmud] [Judaism]

February 3, 6AM

The fifth episode of the podcast, "From Israelite to Jew." This episode deals primarily with the career of Ezra, in 458 BCE. I discuss intermarriage in the Bible and the emergence of the Torah as a source of authority in Israel.The podcast can be heard he...

February 2, 11AM

Prior to 586 BCE, the Israelites worshipped a warrior God whom, they said, forged them into a nation and continued to protect them: He was their king, and they were His subjects. In allegiance to this God, whom they called YHWH, they regularly offered sa...
It is Hanukah, and for eight days traditional Jews will add to their prayers - specifically the Amidah and Grace after Meals - the blessing "al ha-nisim. " This blessing thanks God for delivering the Jews from the wicked tyrants who profaned the Temple, ...

January 26, 12 PM

The fourth episode of the podcast, "From Israelite to Jew." This episode traces the first two returns from Babylonia to Jerusalem, first under Sheshbazzar and then under the dual leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the building of the Second Temple (... [Bible; Second Temple; Jews; Judaism; Jerusalem; religion; academic; history; Jewish history; Haggai; Zechariah]

January 25, 6PM

This is the second episode of the podcast, "From Israelite to Jew." It focuses on the religion of ancient Israel, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and archaeological finds.The podcast can be heard here, or click on the player below. It can... [Judaism] [Bible] [old testament] [Jewish History] [First Temple] [religion] [Jews] [Christianity]

January 16, 4AM

The third episode of the podcast, "From Israelite to Jew." This episode discusses the events leading up to the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and the resulting exile.The podcast can be heard here, or click on the player below. I... [Bible] [Jewish History] [Jerusalem] [First Temple] [Israelites]

December 30 2008, 10AM

This episode introduces my podcast series, "From Israelite to Jew." In it I examine the relationship between religion and its academic study, suggesting that the two ways of understanding religion are not diametrically opposed.The first episode can be he... [Judaism] [podcast] [history]