Mark Leuchter’s The Levites and the Boundaries of Israelite Identity provides a compelling, innovative account of how the Hebrew Bible both reflects and encodes levitical concerns and power dynamics.
Stang’s argument successfully and elegantly traces the motif of the divine double throughout these 2nd and 3rd century texts. He offers mostly close readings of these texts in ways that echo ancient Aristarchean criticism and “New Criticism,” and, as one can see in the introduction and the philosophical conclusion, he sees these texts in light of perennial questions of selfhood.
Van Bladel’s book is thus not only a story of the Mandaean past, but a window into Sasanian Mesopotamia and the forging of “religious communities” beyond the “Greco-Roman” boundaries.
The subject of Moss’s monograph, a revision of his Yale dissertation, is Severus’s theological, political, liturgical, and cultural contestations with fellow anti-Chalcedonians inclined to give up on the imperial church.
Her innovation is bringing the male prophetic body, not just prophetic words, under consideration.
Originally delivered as a series of lectures at Berkley in 2013, Collins seeks to synthesize recent scholarly debates about the nature of ancient Jewish (or Judean) identity. In particular, Collins examines the role the Torah, or Law of Moses, played in the formation of a distinct religious and cultural way of life.
With respect to this important set of late antique sources, Éric Rebillard’s texts, translations, and commentary of the most ancient martyr texts preserved in Latin and Greek are a valuable addition to the scholarly toolkit.
In The Virgin in Song, Thomas Arentzen demonstrates the centrality of Mary within the “civic imaginary” of sixth-century Constantinople through an examination of Romanos’s characterization of the Virgin Mother in his kontakia.
M Tong with a book note on Mira Wasserman's Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals: "Wasserman’s book does something very important: it sets the table for a new kind of conversation––one where the Talmud can lead to a greater understanding of theory, not just the other way around.
In short, Bolin argues that the well-known interpretive problems posed by the book of Ecclesiastes, and in particular the shadowy figure of Qohelet, are generative.
Valuing the Past in the Greco-Roman World asks how the past was defined, accessed, and valued in that period of time so often considered “our” antiquity (18) and provides an array of fascinating examples that work together to undercut notions of the value of the past in the past as in any way uniform or monolithic.
Indeed, central to the volume are two implicit acknowledgements: 1) that the ancient urban “realities” are inaccessible to the modern scholar except by means of imaginative approaches, and 2) that urban “dreams” no less “real” than their material counterparts.
Divine Deliverance contributes to the rich variety of scholarship that examines ancient texts not for historical detail but for rhetorical effect.
Joshua Matson with a summary of the edited volume On Prophets, Warriors, and Kings, which contains conference papers from "various scholars who explored how the Former Prophets have been read, interpreted, and utilized throughout the ages."
Joshua Blachorsky with a book note of Burns' The Christian Schism in Jewish History and Jewish Memory: "Burns continues the trend of eschewing the traditional parting model and envisioning a split only after the beginning of the 4th century. But he does so with a novel lens, focusing on the rabbinic evidence."
"Lenski’s book thus offers not a picture of Constantine at all, but a series of portraits artfully arranged – some by Constantine himself, some by his image-makers, and some by contemporary scholars trying to make sense of this complex, enigmatic, kaleidoscopic character. "
"Where others might be deterred by the paucity of evidence, the range of languages and disciplines required to make heads or tails of the area, or the lack of any preceding comparable work, Rezakhani refreshingly admits these difficulties and treks on despite – and perhaps even because of – them."
"Jörg Rüpke, Vice-director for Religious Studies at the Max Weber Centre of the University of Erfurt, argues that an analysis of Roman conceptions of religious deviance such as the celebration of Bacchanalia can illuminate normative Roman religion and aid in identifying individual religious behavior in the Roman world."
"Griffith opens a window onto an earlier scholarly world, showing how the production of the earliest Arabic Bibles—and indeed the production of Arabic Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as a whole—has been from the beginning a thoroughly interreligious endeavor."
"In a useful introduction, Shoemaker lays out the problem and the gap he wishes to solve and fill: scholars have tended to look at doctrinal texts on Mary and have all but ignored the presence of Marian piety in the first centuries. By charting a devotional rather than theological survey about the Virgin Mary, he aims to create a new narrative about her import in the early Church."
"With careful attention to detail and broad usage of a wealth of sources, Payne systematically deconstructs this idealistic bifurcation between Christianity and Sasanian culture. However, Payne dismantles this historiographical narrative, while simultaneously offering a completely new perspective on Persian Christianity by examining the various ways that Christians participated in, transformed, and even claimed Iranian culture as part of Christian identity."
"While we cannot say that the text reflects actual debates that proponents of a virginal life were having, we can certainly point to it as an example of debates that they imagined they could or would have had similar confrontations. A close engagement with The Life of Saint Helia might therefore provide some insight into how the community—whether it be Priscillianist, Jeromian, or otherwise—attempted to locate themselves within the tradition of Scripture and its interpretation."
Zachary Domach with an overview of Wilson's translation and commentary of The Sentences of Sextus: "his commentary exemplifies how a study of Sextus—and wisdom literature in general—reveals the intertwining of Greek, Jewish, and Christian thought as “actual ‘life’” in Late Antiquity."
"One of Berzon’s constant reminders is that powerful ideologies and strategies of representation often strive to hide their own seams and points of tension, but that it is in the process of highlighting these very points of tension that they find themselves at their most reproducible but also at their most frail. The late ancient heresiologists cultivated strong rhetorics of exceptionality and mastery—the heresy hunter excelled at making discoveries and at flaunting erudition—but also rehearsed a discourse of fear of contagion, vulnerability, and epistemic overload."
"With one eye on Barr’s critiques and another on Guy Deutscher’s more recent linguistic work, she avoids a lexical-based approach and posits that a better method for identifying reflective thought on time is to appeal to an author’s syntax and “habital use” of language—ways by which the author directs the reader to concentrate on certain aspects of the world—and an author’s ability to do this transcends the sum of her lexical stock.
"Marx-Wolf demonstrates that these Platonist thinkers were closely connected despite the fact that one is a Christian and the other three are non-Christian. To this end, she reads these Platonists not in terms of different social or religious affiliations, but in terms of a shared paideia (2-3). She contends that this common formation explains elements of their thought that might otherwise be “surprising” such as Porphyry’s rejection of animal sacrifice."
"Stroumsa makes a subtle move here, however: rather than suggesting, as many before him have, that there was a transition from cult-centered religion to book-centered religion, he argues that book becomes cult."
"Of course, explaining the rise of an Islamic empire as a response to decline in the Roman and Sasanian empires is not a novel approach. Hoyland departs in analyzing the Arabs as a “peripheral people” that had specific political ties to both the Roman and Sasanian empire and thus gained a broader perspective for their own political ambitions."
"Himmelfarb’s incisive reading of Sefer Zerubbabel greatly enriches our understanding of Jewish messianism between the Second Temple period and the rise of Islam. By exploring common themes and figures in a wide range of sources, Himmelfarb works “backward” to uncover a vibrant “Judaism” that actively appropriates key elements of the Christian messianic narrative, much to the consternation of the rabbis."
"This is the theoretical point Morgan is interested in proving with this volume – that in the endless growth of language into new meanings, there are very few grand leaps and very many infinitesimal steps. The earliest Christians did not (yet) redefine faith, Morgan insists, but changed its focus – toward God and Christ alone, rather than that “shared circle of reasoning” that pistis/fides spun among gods and humans (p. 123)."