I am interested in the literature and religion of ancient Israel. I focus on biblical law in its ancient Near Eastern context and on the way that biblical law was later reinterpreted in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Second Temple literature. I have also explored the relation of the Bible to later western intellectual history. My book, Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel, deals with the problem of divine justice in the Decalogue and on the importance of academic biblical studies for current work in the humanities on canon theory. In my latest volume, A More Perfect Torah: At the Intersection of Philology and Hermeneutics in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll, I explore the relationship between biblical composition history and its reception history at Qumran and in rabbinic literature.
History of interpretation
Ancient Near Eastern studies
Literary approaches to biblical studies
Ph.D. : Brandeis University, 1991
Visiting Researcher: Biblical and Semetic Languages, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1979–80
M.A.: McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, 1978
B.A. : York University, Toronto, 1974
Selected Awards and Honors
Elected Fellow, American Academy for Jewish Research (2010– )
Henry Luce Senior Fellow in Religion, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC (2010)
Scholar of the College Award, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota (2010–13)
Imagine Fund Award Winner (2009)
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin/Berlin Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship (2007)
National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Research Stipend (2004)
Appointment to membership in Biblical Colloquium (2003)
McNight Arts and Humanities Summer Fellowship (1999)
Co-recipient of the 1999 Salo W. Baron Award for Best First Book in Literature and Thought from the American Academy for Jewish Research
Member, Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), School of Social Science (1997)
Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania (1997)
NEH Summer Grant nomination; Indiana University Fellowship (1995)
Stroum Fellowship for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies, University of Washington (1987)
Selected Outreach Activities
An End to Antisemitism! A Catalogue of Policies to Combat Antisemitism. Edited by Armin Lange, Ariel Muzicant, Dina Porat, Lawrence H. Schiffman, and Mark Weitzman. Vienna: European Jewish Congress, 2018 (contributor of policy and teaching suggestions).
“The Struggle for the Old Testament in Nazi Germany: The Untold Story of Gerhard von Rad,” Or Emet: Minnesota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, St. Louis Park, MN, April 27, 2012.
“Goethe and the Ten Commandments: Germans and the Myth of Jewish Exclusiveness,” Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka, MN, March 1, 2012.
“The King James Bible: Scripture, Statecraft, and the American Founding,” Manifold Greatness Colloquium, University of Minnesota, February 3, 2012.
“The Decalogue,” Society of Biblical Literature Interview for the “Bible Odyssey” website, Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, San Francisco, CA, November 19, 2011.
“Transgenerational Punishment in the Ten Commandments and the Alternative Notion of Individual Retribution,” Triangle Seminar for Jewish Studies, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC, April 11, 2011.
Interviewed for and quoted in “Six Other Calamities Blamed on Divine Retribution,” by Dan Gilgoff, Belief Blog, CNN.com, March 16, 2011.
“God’s Doubt and the Akedah,” text study at Beth Jacob Congregation, Saint Paul: April 25, 2010.