David Lambert

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David Lambert

Associate Professor

Education

Ph.D., Harvard University, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 2004
M.A., Harvard University, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 2003
A.B., Harvard University, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1998

Research Interests

  • Hebrew Bible and its history of interpretation
  • Late Second Temple Judaism
  • Rabbinic Judaism
  • History of Jewish thought
  • Development of religious concepts and terminology
  • Notions of the self and interiority

Professional Biography

I am interested in the Hebrew Bible as a textual object whose interpretation stands to tell us as much about its readers and their communities as it does about ancient Israelite origins. In that vein, I look to bring historical critical approaches to the Hebrew Bible into closer conversation with the history of biblical interpretation.

This theme comes to the fore in my book, How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2016), which won the 2016 AAR Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the category of Textual Studies. It considers the development of repentance as a concept around the turn of the Common Era and how it came to be naturalized as an essential component of religion through a series of reading practices that allowed nascent Jewish and Christian communities to locate repentance in Scripture. I work with a wide range of literature, and this project involves texts from throughout the corpus of the Hebrew Bible, as well as late Second Temple Judaism (Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Dead Sea Scrolls), Hellenistic Judaism, the New Testament, and Rabbinic literature. I am now focusing on a series of studies that aim to assess more broadly how modern Western notions of the subject have shaped biblical interpretation and, especially, translation practices. In 2017-2018, I will be on leave pursuing these questions as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem as part of a research group working on “The Subject of Antiquity: Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Culture.”

In my teaching, I also aim to integrate historical critical approaches with attention to the history of interpretation in such courses as “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Literature” (Reli 103) and “What is Scripture? Formations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Canon” (Reli 602). My main pedagogical goal is to train students to become critical readers of texts by gaining awareness of their own interpretive presuppositions.

Finally, Reli 602, “What is Scripture?”, represents for me the beginnings of another research interest in the formation of the Hebrew Bible as Scripture. What is Scripture, and how did we arrive at the concept? Is Scripture a uniform idea and was there, therefore, a singular canonical process, or is the very idea of Scripture itself contested and multiform? This project is starting to take shape through a series of articles on the subject, including one on the pseudepigraphic work, the Book of Jubilees.

Awards

EURIAS Fellowship, 2017-2018
AAR Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Textual Studies), 2016
Peter Thacher Grauer Fellow, 2010-2014
Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2004-2007
Harry and Cecile Starr Dissertation Prize, 2004
Berman Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-2004
Graduate Society Summer Dissertation Fellowship, 2003

Courses Recently Taught

RELI 78, “First-Year Seminar: Reading the Bible”
RELI 103, “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament”
RELI 201, “Ancient Biblical Interpretation”
RELI 501, “The History of the Bible in Modern Study”
RELI 602, “What is Scripture? Formations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Canon”
RELI 603, “The Bible and Its Translation”
RELI 703, “Critical Approaches to the Study of the Hebrew Bible and its History of Interpretation”
RELI 712, “Early Jewish History and Literature”

Publication Highlights

How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2016).

“Honor in the Hebrew Bible,” “Honor in Second Temple and Hellenistic Judaism,” and “Honor in Rabbinic Literature,” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception 12: 330-333, 337-341.

“Refreshing Philology: James Barr, Supersessionism, and the State of Biblical Words,” Biblical Interpretation 24:3 (2016), 332-356.

“How the ‘Torah of Moses’ Became Revelation: An Early, Apocalyptic Theory of Pentateuchal Origins,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 47:1 (2016), 22-54.

“The Book of Job in Ritual Perspective,” Journal of Biblical Literature 134:3 (2015), 557-575.

“Was the Dead Sea Sect a Penitential Movement?” in The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2010), 501-513.

“Did Israel Believe that Redemption Awaited Their Repentance?: The Case of Jubilees 1,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68:4 (2006), 631-650.

“Last Testaments in the Book of Jubilees,” Dead Sea Discoveries 11:1 (2004), 82-107.

“Fasting as a Penitential Rite: A Biblical Phenomenon?” Harvard Theological Review 96:4 (2003), 477-512.