Posts by: mzank

On Paul

Jay Harris, in a review of Daniel Boyarin’s A radical Jew published in Commentary Magazine of June 1, 1995[1], cites Edward Gibbon to point out that the idea of Paul as a universalist transcending Jewish ethnic boundaries is, at best, only part of the story. That Paul’s exclusivism was more “ecclesiocentric” than “ethnocentric” primarily means […]

The New Testament

I teach the New Testament as part of an entry-level college course on the Bible. My overall approach is to teach the Bible as literature. I start with canon and canonization, then work my way through the parts of the canons, from Genesis to Daniel, canonical to apocryphal and deutero-canonical, Iron Age to Hellenistic, all […]

The Bible: a trigger warning

On May 17, 2014, Jennifer Medina published an article in the NYTimes that may forever change the way we approach the teaching of literature in the college classroom. It deprived us of our innocence. Under the heading, “Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm,” Medina points to a new form of self-censorship, called trigger […]

Mosaic Law: It’s not what you thought

There was a moment in today’s class that should not go unnoticed. The reading assignment this week in RN101 The Bible was Exodus 19-34, Leviticus 18-20, and a bunch of chapters from Deuteronomy for Friday. Yesterday we looked at the framing of the Sinai covenant, the quasi theatrical scene in Exodus 19, the deity’s physical […]

On Moses

We don’t know whether there was a historical Moses. As Jan Assmann wrote in his Moses the Egyptian, Pharaoh Amenophis IV “Akhenaten” was a figure of history but not of memory, while Moses is a figure of memory but perhaps not of history. And yet, Moses, as a figure of memory, has exerted considerable historical […]

The accidental religionist. An interview with Michael Zank

I meet Michael Zank at his office, on the fourth floor of the Elie Wiesel Center. The first thing I notice is that it is full of books. No surprise there. The second thing I notice is a wind catcher that has the Israeli flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other […]

The creation of “therewaters”

This morning I learned something knew about the well-known story of creation of Genesis. It was my friend John who taught me, as we were walking our dogs in Franklin Park. He mentioned something he’d noticed in Carl Jung’s book on Job that he had recently found and read again after many years. (Goes to […]

Enuma Elish and Genesis

A Meditation on Enuma Elish and the Primordial History of Genesis Let us ask just one question about Genesis 1-11 in comparison with the Akkadian creation epic: how do human beings appear in these two stories? To ask this question, we do not need to decide in advance whether the authors of Genesis deliberately produced […]

Elie Wiesel, my mother, and me

My colleague, Elie Wiesel, was a year older than my mother-in-law, Sarah Shenitzer, and six years younger than my mother, Rosel née Koch. Sarah was from Vilna, the capital of Lithuania and a Jewish cultural center, Wiesel from Sighet, Hungary. He was a Hungarian Jew, my in-laws were Polish Jews. Like Sarah, Wiesel was interned […]

Trinidad in Santo Spiritus

[Sonntag 4. Juni, La Boca bei Trinidad, Santo Spiritus] Letzten Dienstag fuhren wir nach Trinidad. Dort war unser Sohn mit seinem Patenonkel Tomás Anfang Januar gewesen. Sie fanden damals fast keinen Raum in einer der vielen Herbergen In der Nebensaison hatten wir keinerlei Schwierigkeiten dieserart. Unsere von Katya empfohlene Herbergsmutter Theresa, eine gestrenge Hausherrin, holte […]