Presented by Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg

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Early Judaism is often described as the religion of the book—a religious movement built around the study of the Bible and steeped in a culture of sacred bookishness evolving from the focus on that canonical text. In The Closed Book, Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg argues that Jews did not become a text-centered community until nearly a thousand years after the Bible was first canonized. In this presentation, Wollenberg will explore what happened in the intervening centuries, when rabbis seldom read the Bible and many religious authorities remained deeply ambivalent about the biblical text.

Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg is assistant professor of Judaic studies at the University of Michigan. Her research explores the diverse ways in which historical Jewish communities have imagined the Hebrew Bible as a revelation and the varied modes in which they have engaged with the biblical tradition in practice. Wollenberg’s work looks at loci of intersections between rabbinic Jewish thinkers and neighboring communities, from early Christian lay practitioners, to late antique readers of Homer, and the medieval Muslim scholars who foreshadowed scholarly biblical criticism.