Two for Tuesday – The Book of Common Prayer and The Book of Job

The Lives of Great Religious Books is a series offering fascinating histories of important religious texts from around the world.  These short volumes are written for general readers and examine the historical origins of texts from the great religious traditions, and trace how their reception, interpretation, and influence have changed–often radically–over time. For “Two for Tuesday” we highlight two new books published in the series and invite you to read their introductions online.

commonThe Book of Common Prayer: A Biography
by Alan Jacobs

While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . .” or “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer–from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today–became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

Read the introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10076.pdf

 

jobThe Book of Job: A Biography
by Mark Larrimore

The book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible’s most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job’s trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art. Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible’s answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.

Mark Larrimore directs the Religious Studies Program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.

Read the introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10075.pdf

For more books in the Lives of Great Religious Books series, visit:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/series/lgrb.html

Q&A with Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, Editors of “A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations”

A History of Jewish-Muslim RelationsIn an exclusive interview, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, editors of A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day, spoke about their experiences with Jewish-Muslim relations, their inspiration for the book, and what they believe will happen in the future.

At its release in November of this year, the book will be the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. It features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Abdelwahab Meddeb is professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris-X (Nanterre). His books include Islam and Its Discontents.

Benjamin Stora is University Professor at the University of Paris-XIII (Villetaneuse), where he teaches the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century North Africa and the history of North African immigrants in Europe. His many books include Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History.

1. Both of you grew up in places where Jewish and Muslim communities lived side by side but, for the most part, kept to themselves. How did your early experiences affect the way you developed this book?

Benjamin Stora: I grew up in Constantine, in the Jewish Quarter. At that time the Jews in Algeria mostly felt French, but their ties to the Muslim communities were real; we shared the same language of everyday life, the Arabic language. Then came the departure of the Jews from Algeria: another exile after the fracture introduced by the Cremieux Decree. I have worked extensively on the history of the Maghreb and on Algeria in particular, and more recently I have become interested in the question of memory among the Jews of Algeria: it is an essential part of my memory and of Algeria’s history. And to inform these memories, the work of the historian is necessary because it puts events in context, it connects them to one another. This project made sense to me because it would bring together European and American historians, but also Muslims and Jews. And it is only in this collective dimension that the history of Jewish-Muslim relations can be written.

Abdelwahab Meddeb: During my childhood in Tunis, in the 1950s, the presence of Jews was part of my story. During my schooling I had many Jewish teachers in nearly all subjects—history, geography, French literature, English, mathematics, physics, the natural sciences. They were our fellow citizens, our elders. They helped us into the modern world as Tunisians. So, with this background, I decided to join this project. Because Jews have virtually disappeared from Arab reality, from the Maghreb, from Tunisia, it was important to revisit the past, to recall the peaceful coexistence with Jews, sharing the same city. It is necessary to remember, to replace imagination with memory, and from that point, history can be written.

2. This project took more than five years to complete–years that coincided with major changes and conflicts in the Middle East. Did current events affect your decisions about the essays and topics the book would include?

Benjamin Stora and Abdelwahab Meddeb: The history of relations between Jews and Muslims is complex. But the editorial committee tried to focus on the long term, not on issues tied solely to current events.
At a time when the relationship is in bad shape, very bad, we cannot ignore these religious conflicts nor their manifestations in political and social history.
Even in medieval times, when the two civilizations coexisted more peacefully, the “protected” legal status (dhimmi) of Jews did not prevent anti-Judaism among Muslims that led to forced conversions or destruction by the sword. This enmity mutated with the rise of Western hegemony that eventually subjugated the Islamic territories. Other forms of ambivalence developed under colonialism and imperialism.
We have situated A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations at the heart of this tragic scene. We wanted to make this an objective, balanced history, which at first seemed impossible. The history contains not only conflicts, but also times of fertile intellectual, cultural, and artistic exchange.

3. The book traces the history of a long and complicated relationship from a global perspective. Why is this shared history important for contemporary readers to understand?

Benjamin Stora:  Making a book today on the history of relations between Jews and Muslims is a true challenge. Despite all the differences, all the apprehension, all the fears that exist between these two communities, one must maintain the link between them.  They have experienced common histories, and despite the clashes, they belong to the same shared universe.
It is a fundamental undertaking, not simply to remember but to engage readers at the civic level, at the political level. Because if you have this deep knowledge of the recent past, then you can envision working together. But if you do not have this conception of a shared past, how can you find common ground on which to build?

4. What are some of the cultural assumptions this book hopes to challenge?

Benjamin Stora: The first articles in the book challenge the idea that Muslims were hostile toward Jews from the outset. Specialists such as Mark Cohen have shown that the attitude of the Prophet of Islam toward the Jews was shaped by pragmatism, not ideology.
In contrast, the idea of an Andalusian golden age in which the two communities lived in perfect harmony has prevailed for a long time: but again, the historian must have the courage to reflect critically on its sources. This book, which ignores neither the bad nor the good, has the humble ambition to provide the results of contemporary research and to offer a common memory, a tool that will facilitate dialogue.

5. What do you think the future holds for Jewish-Muslim relations?

Abdelwahab Meddeb: I agreed to edit this project because I believe in the possibility of future reconciliation, but always also in the irreconcilable. For there is no reconciliation that does not preserve an irreconcilable part. It is a long history that contains the irreconcilable, on both sides, and for compromise to happen we must recognize that the two entities will maintain irreconcilable elements.
I believe in a future reconciliation and I agreed to do this work because I believe its effect remains to be seen:  to work toward a better time in which everyone will regain reason. Without ignoring the negativities and the abominations, this book tells a complex story. The relationship between Jews and Muslims is complex: it has seen the best, it has seen the worst. But I think it is important at least to remember this ambiguity and to show that it does not move in only one direction.  And to hope that, despite the hatred that currently exists between the two communities, a different vision is possible.

SNEAK PEAK (October release date!): A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraSet to be released in October 2013, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations is the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. Richly illustrated (more than 250 images) and beautifully produced, the book features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

The main articles address major topics such as the Jews of Arabia at the origin of Islam; special profiles cover important individuals and places; and excerpts from primary sources provide contemporary views on historical events.

Contributors include Mark R. Cohen, Alain Dieckhoff, Michael Laskier, Vera Moreen, Gordon D. Newby, Marina Rustow, Daniel Schroeter, Kirsten Schulze, Mark Tessler, John Tolan, Gilles Veinstein, and many more.

  • Covers the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today
  • Written by an international team of leading scholars
  • Features in-depth articles on social, political, and cultural history
  • Includes profiles of important people (Eliyahu Capsali, Joseph Nasi, Mohammed V, Martin Buber, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Edward Said, Messali Hadj, Mahmoud Darwish) and places (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Baghdad)
  • Presents passages from essential documents of each historical period, such as the Cairo Geniza, Al-Sira, and Judeo-Persian illuminated manuscripts
  • Richly illustrated with more than 250 images, including maps and color photographs
  • Includes extensive cross-references, bibliographies, and an index

Each week, Princeton University Press wants to share a new excerpt from this groundbreaking account of a challenging yet remarkable meeting of two religions. This week’s selection is written by Gordon D. Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University. His research specialties include early Islam, Muslim relations with Jews and Christians, and comparative sacred texts:

The Prophet Muhammad and the Jews

The question of where Muhammad learned about Judaism can be answered through a combination of conjecture and evidence.  According to the Islamic tradition, Arabia at that time was pagan, though seeds of monotheistic belief seem to have been planted there even before Muhammad entered the scene.  Mecca, where Muhammad was born, was home of a great pagan shrine, the Ka‘ba, later to become the focal point of the Islamic pilgrimage.  Those isolated Jews residing in Mecca during his youth—Jewish wives of members of his tribe, the Quraysh, and their offspring—would not have served as a significant source of knowledge about Judaism.[1]  Muhammad was more likely to have come in contact with Jewish merchants trading in the town or during his own commercial travels to the north.  From these people he would have been exposed to some Jewish beliefs and practices.  He doubtless met Christians, too, whether merchants trading in Mecca, hermits living in the desert, or Christian members of other Arabian tribes.  From them he would have absorbed ideas of Christianity as well as of Judaism filtered through Christian eyes. 

            In Medina, by contrast, he encountered no Christians, only a large settlement of Jewish tribes, most of them affiliated with local Arabs, including three large, wealthy, and powerful Jewish tribes with typical Arab tribal names: the Banû Naḍîr, the Banû Qaynuqâ‘, and the Banû Qurayẓa.  From them he would have learned much more about Judaism, though it is uncertain how much their Judaism was informed by rabbinic law, since the Babylonian Talmud was still in the process of reaching its final form, which was not concluded until after his death.  While attitudes toward the Jews expressed in the Qur’an were doubtless formed already in Muhammad’s Meccan period, his Jewish policies were a product of his experience in Medina.


[1] On the Jewish wives of Qurashī pagans see Michael Lecker, “A Note on Early Marriage Links between Qurashīs and Jewish Women,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 10 (1987): 17-39.


MOROCCO WORLD NEWS:
15 Facts about the prophet Muhammad

1. He was a descendant of the Prophet Ismail the son of Prophet Ibrahim. -PBUT-

2. Prophet Muhammad PBUH was born in Mecca.

3. The year was 570 A.D.

4. Shortly after his birth his mother died.

5. His father was already dead before his birth. So he became orphan.

6. During this time his uncle Aboo Talib and his grand father Abdul-mutlib took care of him.

7. At the age of nine he started going on trade trips along with his uncle.

8. He met with people of different nations and religions during those trips.

9. His character was respected by all. People throughout Medina including the Jews gave him the name of “The Trustworthy.”

10. In one of his trip he met a Christian scholar, the scholar said to his uncle that he will one day do something great and I can see it because all the trees, mountains and sea are in the bow in front of him.

11. When he got 25, he got a proposal from Khadija for marriage which he accepted and thus they got married. Khadija was 40 years of age at the time of marriage.

12. For the first 54 years of his life he had only one wife. His only wife till 50th year of his life was Sayyida Khadija.

13. They had sons but they died in their childhood.

14. Prophet Muhammed married Sayyida Aicha when she was 9 years old. 1400 years ago it was something very common to marry young girls, in fact they were not considered young girls, and rather they were considered young women back then. It is a historic fact that girls from the ages of 9 to 14 were being married in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in fact even in the United States girls at the age of 10 were also being married just more than a century ago. Yet with these facts no historian claims that all these people were sick perverts, historians would call anyone who made such a claim to be arrogant and very stupid who has no grasp or understanding of history.

15. He never ate alone. He invited others and then ate with them.

For a complete list of 30 facts about the prophet Muhammad, please refer to the link below:
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/01/75149/30-facts-about-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

 

Fast Facts: A few things you didn’t know about Jewish-Muslim relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraThis is the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. Richly illustrated and beautifully produced, the book features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Part I covers the medieval period; Part II, the early modern period through the nineteenth century, in the Ottoman Empire, Africa, Asia, and Europe; Part III, the twentieth century, including the exile of Jews from the Muslim world, Jews and Muslims in Israel, and Jewish-Muslim politics; and Part IV, intersections between Jewish and Muslim origins, philosophy, scholarship, art, ritual, and beliefs. The main articles address major topics such as the Jews of Arabia at the origin of Islam; special profiles cover important individuals and places; and excerpts from primary sources provide contemporary views on historical events.

Contributors include Mark R. Cohen, Alain Dieckhoff, Michael Laskier, Vera Moreen, Gordon D. Newby, Marina Rustow, Daniel Schroeter, Kirsten Schulze, Mark Tessler, John Tolan, Gilles Veinstein, and many more.


DID YOU KNOW?

This work, comprised of articles, portraits and spotlights on particular subjects (“Nota Bene”), and excerpts from primary sources (“Counterpoint”), emphasizes a global approach to Jewish-Muslim relations throughout history. It also reveals some facts that might surprise readers. Here are a few examples.

  • In some religious texts written in Arabic from the Jews of Andalusia, God is called “Allah,” and the terms “imam” and “minbar” are used to designate the leader and the pulpit, respectively; one even finds “Qur’an” for “Torah,” even though the latter exists in classical Arabic in the form “tawrat.”

 

  • Located in Hamadan in the north of Iran, the tomb of Esther (a biblical Jewish heroine who saved her people from a genocide in Persia) is a place of Jewish pilgrimage, but also a holy site for Christians and Muslims. In 2009, it was added to the list of national treasures of the Islamic Republic.

 

  • In the early centuries of Islam, the development of Arabic was, paradoxically, a major factor in the renaissance of written Hebrew. In order to conform to the purest possible version of classical Quranic Arabic, Muslim scribes had to develop grammar, syntax, and a lexicon. The Jews adopted these disciplines to apply to their study of Hebrew and of biblical texts, and thus invented true Hebrew linguistics.

 

  •  The idea of “Semitism,” which first appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the field of comparative grammar, was mistakenly brought into the religious and cultural spheres, and then revived in an anti-scientific manner by racial theories in the name of nationalism and colonialism. Today the idea is contested, even within the linguistic context in which it has always resided.

 

  • The legendary motifs of the origins of Judaism—notably, the power of Solomon over the rebel genies—inspired the Thousand and One Nights, along with other Persian, Indian, and Arab stories.

 

  • It was under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that the Jews were allowed to develop the space in front of the Western Wall (the remains of the Second Temple that the West calls the Wailing Wall), which gradually became a major site of devotion.

 

  • In 1942, the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef (the future King Mohammed V), received delegations of Jews who came to tell him of their grievances in the face of anti-Semitic laws imposed by the Vichy authorities. The Sultan reaffirmed the right of all of his subjects to sovereign protection, and thereafter invited notable Jews to all of the official ceremonies and to the Feast of the Throne. A “Square of Mohammed V” exists in the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel.

 

  • In scientific institutions and journals in the Islamic Republic of Iran, works of contemporary Jewish intellectuals are regularly recognized in Iranian studies, Islamic studies, and even in the history of the Qur’an and hadith. These works are translated and studied, and some win official awards.

 

  • In Israel, where civil marriage and divorce do not exist, Muslim religious tribunals, under some circumstances, are authorized to address questions of family law, and to apply sharia within certain constraints. This situation represents a legacy of the Ottoman millet system, which was formerly applied in Palestine. For their part, Israeli civil tribunals are sometimes called upon, for certain specific matrimonial questions, to apply the laws of sharia.

 

  • While the Holocaust took place mainly in Christian territories, more than seventy Muslims have been counted as “Righteous Among the Nations.” The Yad Vashem Institute awarded this title, notably, to a Turkish diplomat, to Tatars in the former Soviet Union, and especially to Bosnians and Albanians. For the latter, saving the Jews was based on a traditional code of honor, Besa, which literally signifies “to keep the promise.”

 

SNEAK PEAK (October release date!): A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraSet to be released in October 2013, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations is the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. Richly illustrated (more than 250 images) and beautifully produced, the book features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

The main articles address major topics such as the Jews of Arabia at the origin of Islam; special profiles cover important individuals and places; and excerpts from primary sources provide contemporary views on historical events.

Contributors include Mark R. Cohen, Alain Dieckhoff, Michael Laskier, Vera Moreen, Gordon D. Newby, Marina Rustow, Daniel Schroeter, Kirsten Schulze, Mark Tessler, John Tolan, Gilles Veinstein, and many more.

  • Covers the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today
  • Written by an international team of leading scholars
  • Features in-depth articles on social, political, and cultural history
  • Includes profiles of important people (Eliyahu Capsali, Joseph Nasi, Mohammed V, Martin Buber, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Edward Said, Messali Hadj, Mahmoud Darwish) and places (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Baghdad)
  • Presents passages from essential documents of each historical period, such as the Cairo Geniza, Al-Sira, and Judeo-Persian illuminated manuscripts
  • Richly illustrated with more than 250 images, including maps and color photographs
  • Includes extensive cross-references, bibliographies, and an index

Each week, Princeton University Press wants to share a new excerpt from this groundbreaking account of a challenging yet remarkable meeting of two religions. This week’s selection is written by Gordon D. Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University. His research specialties include early Islam, Muslim relations with Jews and Christians, and comparative sacred texts:

Early Judeo-Arabic

Linguistic evidence for the presence of Jews in Arabia is impossible to date, but by the time of the rise of Islam, we have evidence of a specialized Judeo-Arabic and the presence of Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic terms assimilated into the Northwest Arabic of the Hijâz. Common words like çalât (from the Aramaic tzeluta, “prayer”), çadaqa (from the Hebrew tzedaqa, “charity, alms-giving”), zakât (from the Hebrew zekhut, “purification” or “merit”), and nabî (from the Hebrew navi’, “prophet”) are all treated in the Qur’an as “clear” Arabic. Jews in Arabia spoke a variety of Judeo-Arabic, termed al-yahûdîyah, “the Jewish [tongue]” and read scriptures in both Hebrew and in Arabic translations, preparing Targumim, or translations interspersed with commentaries, in the manner of other Diaspora Jews. See article by Geneviève Gobillot, p. xxx It is the opinion of this author that most of this linguistic development took place in the centuries after the unsuccessful Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.) which marked the end of Jewish resistance against Roman occupation, and it is in the Roman period and after that we begin to get more evidence of Jewish life in Arabia.[1]

One of the results of the Jewish conflict with Rome was the movement of Jews from the center of the Roman oikoumene to the periphery, Gaul, Iberia, and Arabia. We know that the Pharisaic Jew turned Christian, Paul, who had been Saul of Tarsus, had spent three years in Arabia after his conversion to Christianity, presumably among possible Jewish converts,[2] and prior to the start of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the revolt’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Akiba, journeyed to Arabia, as he did elsewhere, to garner Jewish support for the conflict with Rome. When the Christian missionary Theophilus traveled to Arabia two centuries later, he found a great number of Jews.[3] By the middle of the next century, the rulers of Yemen were using monotheistic formulas in inscriptions that appear to be Jewish or based on Jewish ideals.

 


[1] See Gordon D. Newby, “Observations about an Early Judaeo-Arabic,” Jewish Quaterly Review., New Series 61 (1971): 214-221; Moshe Gil, “The Origins of the Jews of Yathrib,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 4 (1984): 206.

[2] Galatians 1:17.

[3] Philostorgius, Ecclesiasticae Historiae. Geneva: Chouët, 1642, 3.5.


Fun Fact:
“Judeo-Arabic is an ethnolect (a linguistic entity with its own history and used by a distinct language community) which has been spoken and written in various forms by Jews throughout the Arabic-speaking world.”–Benjamin Hary, Emory University

Check out some examples of Judeo-Arabic script below.

Judeo-Arabic Examples

 

A very Kafkaesque 130th birthday anniversary!

In case you haven’t looked at today’s Google Doodle yet, July 3rd marks the 130th birthday anniversary of novelist Franz Kafka. Kafka is the subject of a major three-part biography by Reiner Stach and translated by Shelley Frisch, the first two of which are just out this month from our fair Press (KAFKA: The Years of Insight and KAFKA: The Decisive Years, for those not already in the know).

In the commercial publishing world,  Peter Mendelsund came up with some stellar cover overhauls for many of Kafka’s works for Schocken Books, a division of Random House, including “The Trial,” “Amerika,” and “The Castle.” Here’s a fun birthday video they released for the anniversary, as part of what graphic artist Neil Gower aptly calls the “Tour de Franz“:

The birthday coverage has also been picked up by Michael Cavna of Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog, Mashable, PC Magazine, the Guardian, and the Toronto Star, among others. Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Katherine Jacobsen identifies a great quote from British poet W. H. Auden on the brilliant German-language writer:

Kafka is important because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, so in that spirit, happy birthday, Dr. Kafka!

Explaining Why They are ‘The Chosen Few’

The Jewish people went from being agrarian and illiterate in 70 CE to literate and money-savy urbanites in 1492. How did they do it? Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein argue in their book The Chosen Few that it was due to educational reform. Read this new essay by the authors on PBS Newshour as they explain further Jewish success.

The Chosen Few: A New Explanation of Jewish Success

Imagine a dinner conversation in a New York or Milan or Tel Aviv restaurant in which three people–an Israeli, an American, and a European — ask to each other: “Why are so many Jews urban dwellers rather than farmers? Why are Jews primarily engaged in trade, commerce, entrepreneurial activities, finance, law, medicine, and scholarship? And why have the Jewish people experienced one of the longest and most scattered diasporas in history, along with a steep demographic decline?”

Most likely, the standard answers they would suggest would be along these lines: “The Jews are not farmers because their ancestors were prohibited from owning land in the Middle Ages.” “They became moneylenders, bankers, and financiers because during the medieval period Christians were banned from lending money at interest, so the Jews filled in that role.” “The Jewish population dispersed worldwide and declined in numbers as a result of endless massacres.”

Imagine now that two economists (us) seated at a nearby table, after listening to this conversation, tell the three people who are having this lively debate: “Are you sure that your explanations are correct? You should read this new book, ours, “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History,” and you would learn that when one looks over the 15 centuries spanning from 70 C.E. to 1492, these oft-given answers that you are suggesting seem at odds with the historical facts. This book provides you with a novel explanation of why the Jews are the people they are today — a comparatively small population of economically successful and intellectually prominent individuals.”

Suppose you are like one of the three people in the story above and you wonder why you should follow the advice of the two economists. There are many books that have studied the history of the Jewish people and have addressed those fascinating questions. What’s really special about this one?

Read the rest of this compelling article at The Newshour website:

[Read more...]

An academic quarrel over the Dead Sea Scrolls leads to jail time

Battles over scholarship are nothing new. The halls of academia are infamous grounds for feuds between professors and researchers with opposing ideas and theories. Rarely do these disagreements spill outside the campus walls or end up in court, but as the New York Times reports, a recent quarrel over the Dead Sea Scrolls has landed one person in jail.

Rafael Golb has, according to the New York Times article, been convicted of “waging an Internet campaign against his father’s academic rivals, including sending e-mails under a rival professor’s name.”

We recently published a biography of The Dead Sea Scrolls by John J. Collins. Listen in to a recent interview with Fresh Air, or read this quick excerpt from the book to throw some light on the recent news:

 

Rafael Golb

There would be yet another lawsuit relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls, arguably the most bizarre of all.

On November 19, 2010, the New York Times reported on page A24 that Rafael Golb, son of Norman Golb, was convicted in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan of establishing e-mail accounts pretending to be Lawrence Schiffman, and sending messages to university officials in which Schiffman supposedly confessed to plagiarism. Golb, a fifty-year-old real estate lawyer in New York, with a PhD from Harvard, said that the e-mails were merely parodies, but that he believed that Schiffman had plagiarized the work of his father Norman. (Schiffman and the elder Golb disagree on most issues relating to the Scrolls.) Golb had allegedly also sent e-mails in the name of other scholars, and sometimes anonymous e-mails, complaining that exhibitions of the Scrolls did not adequately represent the views of his father. (The father has been consistently and vocally critical of museum exhibits on the Scrolls, in blogs and letters to board members.) The younger Golb was present at the conference in the Blood Center in New York in 1992, when Schiffman had taken the lead in criticizing the work of Wise and Eisenman. His motivation has not been articulated, but it would seem to arise from a concern to defend his father’s views and to discomfit his perceived opponents. At the time of writing he has appealed his conviction.

 

Why the Fury?

Two famous sayings come to mind in rehearsing these disputes. One is Henry Kissinger’s dictum that academic disputes are so bitter because there is so little at stake. The other is Edmund Burke’s judgment on the French revolution: “vanity made the revolution; liberty was only the excuse.”

There can be little doubt that scholarly, and unscholarly, egos played an enormous role in the most heated disputes. Editors who were reluctant to make texts available to other scholars were guarding their position of privilege, even if they honestly believed that open access would lead to the proliferation of nonsense by incompetent headline seekers. Those who pressed most vocally for the release of the scrolls were not free of self-interest, either. There were reputations to be made and standing in the scholarly world to be achieved. Scholars set great store by claims to have been the first to publish something, even though the significance of the achievement may not be universally appreciated. Heated debates sometimes gave rise to personal animosities, and these contributed to some of the most bitter controversies. It should be said, however, that the acrimonious disputes involved only a small number of people at any time. Most scholars in the field have good collegial relations and only a limited appetite for controversy.

 

bookjacket

The Dead Sea Scrolls
A Biography
John J. Collins

Three PUP Titles on Jewish Ideas Daily’s 40 Best Jewish Books of 2012

It may be the end of January already but 2012 was such a great year for PUP’s books that we’re just going to keep rolling out the good news from last year. Three PUP books made the list of the 40 Best Jewish Books of 2012 on Jewish Ideas Daily!

Inheriting Abraham coverInheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Jon D. Levenson

Not only did Inheriting Abraham make the list but it was also selected as the BEST nonfiction Jewish book of 2012.

“The best Jewish book in each category this past year?  Inheriting Abraham is the most impressive work of Jewish scholarship published during 2012.  For more than three decades, Jon Levenson has been quietly developing a biblical theology that would revolutionize Jewish understanding and worship, if only more Jews were to learn of it.  Inheriting Abraham is his most accessible book yet—a model of how exacting scholarship can be written for the well-educated layman.” ― D.G. Myers, Jewish Ideas Daily

The Book of Genesis: a Biography by Ronald Hendel

The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History 70-1492 by Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein

Another Jewish Studies book will be debuting in May 2013, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. Unlike the previously published Jewish studies books that have made the above list, No Joke traces Jewish humor- a more light-heaNo Joke coverrted topic that nevertheless discusses important and fascinating questions about Jewish humor. It has already created quite a buzz:

“An essential examination of Jewish humor. Ruth Wisse ably traces the subject through high literature and low culture,  from Heine to Borat, offering new and glimmering insights in each case. She takes on the difficult questions, not least the one of utility: has humor helped the Jews, and does it help them still? No Joke is vastly erudite, deeply informative, and delightfully written–plus it’s got plenty of good jokes. What more could one ask for?”–Jeremy Dauber, Columbia University

2012 was certainly a great year for our Jewish books and with that in mind, here’s to wishing the best for our 2013 books!

The Chosen Few – Winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award

Congratulations to Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, authors of The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492, for winning the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Scholarship! As the longest-running North American awards program in the field of Jewish literature, the National Jewish Book Awards recognizes outstanding books of Jewish interest.

According to the Jewish Book Council, “The Chosen Few offers a powerful new explanation of one of the most significant transformations in Jewish history while also providing fresh insights to the growing debate about the social and economic impact of religion.” Check out the Introduction.

Also, a warm congratulations to Daniel B. Schwartz’s The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image, which was a finalist in 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the category of History. The jury’s statement notes, “Professor Schwartz develops his history over the centuries by highlighting key philosophers who became more supportive of Spinoza in each successive generation until we now come to think of Baruch Spinoza as one of the great modern philosophers.”

Read the official press announcement of all winners and finalists, here. And again, many congratulations to Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, and Daniel B. Schwartz!

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “When the Umayyad kingdom of Córdoba was established in 756, the city was the largest in Europe, with a population of about 100,000 people.”

The Chosen Few:
How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492

by Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein

In 70 CE, the Jews were an agrarian and illiterate people living mostly in the Land of Israel and Mesopotamia. By 1492 the Jewish people had become a small group of literate urbanites specializing in crafts, trade, moneylending, and medicine in hundreds of places across the Old World, from Seville to Mangalore. What caused this radical change? The Chosen Few presents a new answer to this question by applying the lens of economic analysis to the key facts of fifteen formative centuries of Jewish history.

Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein show that, contrary to previous explanations, this transformation was driven not by anti-Jewish persecution and legal restrictions, but rather by changes within Judaism itself after 70 CE–most importantly, the rise of a new norm that required every Jewish male to read and study the Torah and to send his sons to school. Over the next six centuries, those Jews who found the norms of Judaism too costly to obey converted to other religions, making world Jewry shrink. Later, when urbanization and commercial expansion in the newly established Muslim Caliphates increased the demand for occupations in which literacy was an advantage, the Jews found themselves literate in a world of almost universal illiteracy. From then forward, almost all Jews entered crafts and trade, and many of them began moving in search of business opportunities, creating a worldwide Diaspora in the process.

The Chosen Few offers a powerful new explanation of one of the most significant transformations in Jewish history while also providing fresh insights to the growing debate about the social and economic impact of religion.

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9744.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

On Wednesday, March 14 we’re celebrating Albert Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day—two very big events in Princeton! Einstein lived in Princeton for over 20 years, so to honor his big day we’re giving away a copy of a book of his quotations:

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein
Collected and edited by Alice Calaprice
With a foreword by Freeman Dyson

Here is the definitive new edition of the hugely popular collection of Einstein quotations that has sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-five languages.

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein features 400 additional quotes, bringing the total to roughly 1,600 in all. This ultimate edition includes new sections—”On and to Children,” “On Race and Prejudice,” and “Einstein’s Verses: A Small Selection”—as well as a chronology of Einstein’s life and accomplishments, Freeman Dyson’s authoritative foreword, and new commentary by Alice Calaprice.

In The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, readers will also find quotes by others about Einstein along with quotes attributed to him. Every quotation in this informative and entertaining collection is fully documented, and Calaprice has carefully selected new photographs and cartoons to introduce each section.

-Features 400 additional quotations

-Contains roughly 1,600 quotations in all

-Includes new sections on children, race and prejudice, and Einstein’s poetry

-Provides new commentary

-Beautifully illustrated

-The most comprehensive collection of Einstein quotes ever published

Praise for previous editions: “All of us who lack Einstein’s intellectual and spiritual gifts owe a debt of gratitude to Princeton University Press for having humanized him in this innovative way.”—Timothy Ferris, New York Times Book Review

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9268.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 3/16 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!