David Lambert

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David Lambert

Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Education

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

Research Interests

  • Hebrew Bible in its Ancient Near Eastern environment
  • Hermeneutics and the history of biblical interpretation
  • Late Second Temple Judaism
  • History of Jewish thought
  • History of the Self
  • Translation Studies

Professional Biography

My work is in the Hebrew Bible and its history of interpretation. My goal is to further elucidate the Bible by making readers aware of the interpretive tendencies that they bring to bear on the biblical text. 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 was awarded the 2016 AAR Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the category of Textual Studies. It considers how the primacy accorded repentance within Hellenistic Judaism leads to the development of a series of interpretive practices whereby Jewish and Christian communities read repentance back into Scripture. It asks what it might mean to read the Bible without this penitential lens and, through a close reading of a series of biblical and extrabiblical passages, offers alternative descriptions of a variety of ancient Israelite practices and phenomena: fasting, appeal, confession, the phrase, “return to YHWH,” and prophecy, as well as redemptive expectations among sectarians in the Second Temple period.

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 was 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.” Articles on the topic include: “The Book of Job in Ritual Perspective,” Journal of Biblical Literature 134:3 (2015); “Refreshing Philology: James Barr, Supersessionism, and the State of Biblical Words,” Biblical Interpretation 24:3 (2016); and “‘Desire’ Enacted in the Wilderness: Problems in the History of the Self and Bible Translation” in Self, Self-Fashioning and Individuality in Late Antiquity (forthcoming).

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 “The Bible and its Translation” (Reli 603). 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? Formations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Canon?” represents for me another research interest, namely, 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 will be appearing as a monograph, “What is Scripture? Redescribing the Bible, its Formation and Interpretation” with Yale University Press. An initial article on the topic has been published: “How the ‘Torah of Moses’ Became Revelation: An Early, Apocalyptic Theory of Pentateuchal Origins,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 47:1 (2016).

Awards

Fellow, Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, 2017-2018
EURIAS Fellowship, 2017-2018
AAR Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Textual Studies), 2016
Peter Thacher Grauer Fellow, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010-2014
Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Post-doctoral Fellowship, Yale University, 2004-2007
Harry and Cecile Starr Dissertation Prize, 2004

Courses Recently Taught

RELI 78, “First-Year Seminar: Reading the Bible: Now and Then”
RELI 103, “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament”
RELI 201 (online section), “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: Second Temple Judaism”
RELI 801, “Seminar in Biblical Studies: Prophetic Literature”

Publication Highlights

“‘Desire’ Enacted in the Wilderness: Problems in the History of the Self and Bible Translation in Self, Self-Fashioning and Individuality in Late Antiquity, edited by Maren Niehoff and Joshua Levinson (forthcoming).

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.