EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2020/21
Nordic Postgraduate Forum in ancient and early Medieval Jewish History and Literature
22-23 September 2020
Dr Katharina E. Keim (co-applicant and co-organiser, Lund)
Dr Karin Hedner Zetterholm (lead applicant and co-organiser, Lund)
Prof Anders Runesson (co-applicant, Oslo)
This event was designed to fulfil the following purposes: (i) to give doctoral students feedback on their work from experienced researchers; (ii) to support doctoral candidates in developing professional networks throughout the Nordic region; (iii) to develop closer cooperation and stronger networks between Jewish Studies scholars in the Nordic region (particularly through the newly-established Nordic Network for Jewish Studies); (iv) to raise the profile of Jewish Studies as a discipline in Nordic countries. As such, the title of the event was intentionally broad in order to allow students from a broader range of sub-disciplines to participate.
The organisers do not intend for this event to be a one-off meeting. Rather, it is hoped that it will offer a foundation for further meetings between postgraduate as well as early career researchers and established academic staff in Jewish Studies and related disciplines affiliated with Nordic institutions. The purpose of restricting the event’s presenters to those affiliated with Nordic institutions was to address the under-representation and under-funding of Jewish Studies in the region. Nordic scholars are often well-networked via direct co-operations and through European/North American learned societies, rather than as a collective of scholars across the region. This event is part of a programme designed to meet the challenge of developing the discipline of Jewish Studies in the region in order to create and consolidate networks, to collaborate on funding bids to Nordic (e.g., Nordforsk) and EU funds (e.g., EU individual and consortium funding, as well as mobility funding), and to make the case for continued (if not increased) public funding to support appointments and research in this area.
The programme consisted of six presentations and a text-reading masterclass that took place over two half days. The presentations were given by doctoral students affiliated with universities in the Nordic region. The presenters were all at different stages of their doctoral work, from those who were just beginning their projects to those who were nearing their programme’s conclusion. A short text from each presenter (project plan or excerpt from thesis work-in-progress) was pre-circulated two weeks prior to the event to those listed on the programme. These were then discussed in 45-minute slots, allowing 10-15 minutes for each presenter to summarise their paper before receiving comments from respondents and questions from the audience. At the conclusion of the first afternoon’s programme Prof Philip Alexander (FBA, Emeritus Manchester) gave a text-reading masterclass entitled, “’If they are not prophets they are sons of prophets’: Tosefta Pesahim 4:13-14 and its reception in the Yerushalmi and the Bavli.” A summary of the papers and the masterclass will be given below. The event took place in a hybrid fashion, with participants joining in person at Lund University and online via Zoom. For those who attended in person, precautions were taken to limit risks associated with the spread of Covid-19. 40 participants joined the event from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the UK, contributing to a collegial and supportive discussion environment.
Summary of the papers and discussion
Ludvig Nyman, Lund University
“Paul’s use of Moses”
Nyman’s project addresses the challenges of understanding Paul’s use of traditions about Moses in the undisputed Pauline letters. How does Paul relate to the figure of Moses? How does Paul’s interpretation of the figure of Moses and Moses traditions help us to understand Paul’s scriptural world? And, how might reading Paul’s use of Moses alongside other relevant primary literature nuance our understanding of both Paul’s relationship to Scripture and to his Jewishness?
Daniel Leviathan, Lund University
“The Jewish Settlement in the Galilee During the Byzantine-Islamic Transition: A view through the Archaeological Remains of Synagogues”
Leviathan’s doctoral project builds on the work he did for his MA thesis at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His MA project focussed on the state of synagogues in the Galilee during the Byzantine-Islamic transition, examining the impacts of iconoclasm, earthquakes, abandonment, as well as changes to the local population through the decline of the Jewish community in the Galilee in the early Islamic centuries. Leviathan illustrated a period of archaeological decline just as Jewish literary culture saw a significant revival.
Topias Taskanen, Åbo University
“The Abrahamic Promise (Gen 12:1-3) and its Reception in the Book of Jubilees”
Taskanen is writing his thesis on the Jacob story in Jubilees and is planning to develop his argument through three case studies illustrating the relationship between the Hebrew Bible and Jubilees. What is the relationship between Genesis and Jubilees? What is the nature of the Abrahamic promise, and how is it perceived with regard to whether it is a privilege or a burden? Taskanen also developed his argument further regarding the relationship between God and Israel through an analysis of the special emphasis in Jubilees on Jacob and his descendants.
Miriam Selén Gerson, Uppsala University
“Rabbinic interpretations of the sacrificial cult as a form of intimate meeting between God and Israel”
Selén Gerson presented a developing chapter from her thesis wherein she reads Song of Songs Rabbah and Seder Olam Rabbah with a focus on the relationship between God and Israel. Specifically, Selén Gwerson examines these texts with reference to anthropological theory and theological perspectives in order to explore rabbinic attitudes to Israelite Temple sacrifices. Her study throws light on the connection between Temple sacrifice, prayer, and Torah study in Rabbinic literature.
Jonatan Ådahl, Åbo University
“‘Oh Adam, where art thou?’ – Hosea 6:7 applied to Adam and Israel in Genesis Rabbah 19.9”
Ådahl presented a reading of Genesis Rabbah 19:9 (concerning Adam’s sin in the garden) alongside its intersecting verse of Hosea 6:7, arguing that the exegetes of Genesis Rabbah drew a strong comparison between the suffering and punishment of Adam after he had sinned with the suffering and punishment of Israel after they had sinned.
Lukas Hagel, Lund University
“Messiah in Ancient Jewish Texts”
Hagel presented his plan for his doctoral project that focusses on Paul’s conception of the Messiah. Coming from a Paul within Judaism perspective, Hagel asks whether Paul considers Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah. This means, according to Paul, that Jesus is the Messiah for the Jews, a question that scholars within the Paul within Judaism perspective have overlooked in favour of a focus on Jesus’ significance for the gentiles.
Prof. Philip Alexander (FBA, Emeritus Manchester) gave a well-attended text-reading masterclass focussed on a close reading of Tosefta Pesachim 4:13-14 and tracing the reception of its traditions in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. Alexander began with an introduction to the challenges of reading rabbinic texts, giving an overview of the problems of: (a) the texts and language; (b) the anonymous voice (that is, the Stam); (c) the transmission of Oral Torah; (d) the synoptic problem in rabbinic literature; and, (e) the historical and cultural contexts of the Talmuds. Alexander guided the group through the methods and style of rabbinic argumentation and highlighted the complex relationship between the rabbinic academies of Israel and Babylonia as reflected in the text.
Overview of the discussion
As noted above, texts from each of the presenters were circulated to the other presenters and respondents in advance of the event in order to increase the amount of time for discussion during each of the 45-minute slots. The event was supported by the contributions of a number of respondents, including:
- Philip Alexander (Professor Emeritus of Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, University of Manchester)
- Erik Alvstad (Senior Lecturer, Malmö University)
- Karin Hedner Zetterholm (Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Lund University)
- Katharina Keim (Researcher in Jewish Studies, Lund University)
- Anders Runesson (Professor of New Testament, University of Oslo)
- Blaženka Scheuer (Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, Lund University)
- Andreas Westergren (Researcher in Patristics, Lund University)
- Magnus Zetterholm (Associate Professor New Testament Studies, Lund University)
Contributions from the respondents and the audience focussed on the argument of the presenters, their research questions and project design, as well as research methods, key terminology, approaches to primary sources and the sharing of additional secondary sources and specialist knowledge. The presenters have fed back to the organisers that the responses they received to their projects was of great help, and the audience was also appreciative of the opportunity to engage with the discussion in a supportive research environment.
(1) The facilitation of direct feedback to doctoral students from experienced researchers unaffiliated with their projects;
(2) The expansion of doctoral networks with colleagues and established faculty in Jewish Studies across the Nordic region;
(3) The development of a suitable framework for future events, as well as engaging colleagues from other Nordic institutions in planning similar events in other sub-disciplines in the future; and,
(4) To consolidate the emerging Nordic Network of Jewish Studies.
Further planned outputs include (1) the publication of short project presentations on the Nordic Network for Jewish Studies website; and, (2) a report for EAJS, to be cross published on the Nordic Network for Jewish Studies website.
The organisers would like to thank the European Association for Jewish Studies for supporting this event.