What was the ordinary, nonelite experience of the Roman religious world? How far can we recover the everyday interactions of Romans and their deities in the republican and early imperial periods?
Katherine Shaner’s book is a careful and rigorous examination of the extent of enslaved leadership in antiquity as well as the prevalence of scholarly erasure of that leadership.
Jillian Stinchcomb reviews Karen Stern’s Writing on the Wall: “Stern’s work synthesizes archaeological and material histories across the Mediterranean, bringing together discussions of the lived realities of a Jews from socio-economic perspectives that are under-represented in rabbinic and other (elite) literary Jewish texts.”
Sheldon Steen reviews Jennifer Otto’s Philo of Alexandria and the Construction of Jewishness in Early Christian Writings: “The epithets he is given betray at once the utility and liability of Philo for Christian discourses of identity because of how he is depicted as never fully one of “us” nor one of “them.”"
Sari Fein reviews the edited volume, Mothers in the Jewish Cultural Imagination: “What other images of mothers exist in the Jewish cultural imagination? And, what do those images reveal about wider ideas of gender and family in Jewish culture?”
In Acts of the Apostles and the Rhetoric of Roman Imperialism, Drew Billings places Emperor Trajan and the triumphal Column erected to honor his reign into conversation with the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles.
Yoni Nadiv reviews Katharina Keim’s Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality: “In the absence of a critical edition, Keim argues that the literary descriptive project she undertakes is not only possible absent a critical edition but is a prerequisite for preparing one.”
The selection of ancient authors covered in this volume is governed by the explicit criterion that the ancient author must discuss something that may be surmised to be a “theory” of biblical interpretation. That is, the articles included do not simply survey how exegesis was practiced amongst Latin authors in late antiquity. Rather, they concern themselves specifically with Latin authors who articulated their hermeneutical method.
James Tucker reviews Michael Stone’s Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism: “An analysis of the insider and outsider sources can illuminate how secrecy and esotericism were realized apropos the social practices of initiation, graded revelation, and hierarchical structure.”
Watts ends the volume with a chapter on such modern representations of Hypatia, which move already suggests his aim: to bracket the legend long enough to catch sight of the life that inspired it.
This volume, replete with color images and detailed charts, is both a resource and an invitation for further research. The range of expertise offered by the volume’s contributors testifies to the interdisciplinarity that animates Byzantine Studies.
Cavan Concannon’s Assembling Early Christianity: Trade, Networks, and the Letters of Dionysios of Corinth examines the traces of an understudied bishop to draw larger conclusions about how early Christianities effloresced and dissolved over time.
“Like a Roman idol marking a crossroads in a way that makes visible the danger and domination that was always there, focusing on travel allows writers ancient and modern a vantage point on interplays between materiality and ideology that otherwise might slip by us.”
In fact, Bond argues, it is in part because of the indispensability of these professions that they were so stigmatized. The lowbrow, servile nature of these labors disqualified members of the elite from practicing them, but the dependency of civic institutions and day-to-day well-being upon them brought great wealth and power to those within the trade.
“As Elledge’s book capably demonstrates, it is the diversity, complexity and adaptability of resurrection belief—the very attributes that make it so difficult for scholars to pin down—that characterized and facilitated its growth in early Jewish thought.”
A Spiritual Economy is a helpful addition to recent studies in gifts in the letters of Paul, and its multidisciplinary engagement contributes to the study of religion in antiquity and to broader conversations in history, sociology, and anthropology about gift exchange.
Whereas most archaeologists of Roman Syria focus on discrete regions, de Jong is the first to undertake a systematic study of burials from across the province.
But decoding slanderous language is not just a complicated task for modern scholars; the Gospel of John’s earliest interpreters also chewed over the anti-Jewish language in the text. In Exegeting the Jews, Michael Azar examines the earliest reception of John’s anti-Jewish language.
“Whether they received these forms from Cicero or came to them independently, the fact that the rabbis are not alone in producing these forms makes clear that the strategy is effective, and Hidary’s rhetorical analyses ably show what that strategy is. A literary work need not be efficient or conclusive to be persuasive.”
Sarah Bond reviews Donna Zuckerberg’s Not All Dead White Men: “A new generation of classicists, archaeologists, and premodern historians have begun to realize that an insulated approach to scholarship is itself a form of privileged monasticism that we can no longer retreat to. In Not All Dead White Men, Zuckerberg looks into the crevices of the internet and into academia with a jussive command: “Fiat lux” (Let there be light). It is up to us to keep the lights on.”
Framing his book with the two great miracles of Constantine and Theodosius, Drake attempts to tease out exactly how this discourse functioned in late antiquity, especially for Christians.
In considering the monastic mind(s) of late antiquity, Paul Dilley rejects models entrenched in a Cartesian dualism—opting instead to explore modes of embodied cognition. He proposes that the cognitive training practiced by early Christian monks led to the “gradual acquisition of a new and particularly monastic theory of mind.”
“Beautifully written and clearly organized, the strength of Belser’s method for reading rabbinic tales is in not fitting the Bavli into any one theoretical framework, but rather in allowing her hermeneutic lenses to shift along with the text.”
“To briefly sketch some of Rosenblum's findings, we see that Greek and Roman sources are often perplexed by or antagonistic to these laws, Hellenistic Jews justify the laws via allegory, reason, and revelation, Rabbinic sources only begin to provide justifications beyond revelation with the Amoraim, and later Christian sources return to allegory, while denying the literal adherence to these prohibitions.”
Lavee argues for reading the conflicting attitudes of renewal and rejection as reflecting a Babylonian attitude of ‘genealogical anxiety,’ marking the convert as reborn so as to disassociate them from their natal families while in so doing marking them as the ‘eternal other.’