Seventy Languages (and Translations) for Seventy Nations

27 April, 2023

We are deeply honoured to welcome Professor Steven Fraade, Mark Taper Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Yale University, USA, to lead a session of the Sacred Literature in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group.

Here are more details of this fascinating event.

Topic: Seventy Languages (and Translations) for Seventy Nations

Abstract: Based on Deuteronomy 27:1-8 (and Joshua 8:30-32), the Mishnah (Sotah 7:5) recounts that the inscription of the Torah on stones after crossing the Jordan River at Gilgal was to be done “very distinctly,” understood to mean “in seventy languages.”  We will examine several attempts by rabbis to understand the rationale for such translations, exhibiting ambivalence with regard to the universalizing of the Torah in the hands (or tongues) of “the nations of the world.”  We ourselves will practice multilingualism as our discussion focuses on texts in Hebrew and Aramaic, in English translations.  Along the way we will touch upon the Greek as well.

Speaker: Professor Steven Fraade, Mark Taper Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Yale University, USA

Speaker’s biography: Until his retirement in 2022, Steven Fraade taught for forty-three years at Yale courses on rabbinic literature, the history of Second Temple and early rabbinic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He regularly offered seminars on midrashic, mishnaic, and talmudic texts, and topics in ancient Jewish history. His research interests include the history of Judaism (in its varieties) in Second Temple and early rabbinic times; biblical translation and exegesis in ancient Judaism and Christianity; the history and rhetoric of ancient Jewish law; the Dead Sea Scrolls; literary-rhetorical analysis of tannaitic and amoraic rabbinic texts; attitudes towards ascetic piety in early Judaism; and multilingualism in ancient Jewish culture. He is the author of Enosh and His Generation: Pre-Israelite Hero and History in Postbiblical Interpretation (1984) and From Tradition to Commentary: Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy (1991). The latter volume won the 1992 National Jewish Book Award for the Best Book of Jewish Scholarship.  Steven Fraade is co-editor of Rabbinic Perspectives: Rabbinic Literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls (2006).  More recently, he published Legal Fictions: Law and Narrative in the Discursive Worlds of Ancient Jewish Sectarians and Sages (2011), as well as a new annotated translation of and commentary on the Damascus Document for Oxford University Press as part of the Oxford Commentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls (2021).  Most recently, he has authored Multilingualism and Translation in Ancient Judaism: Before and After Babel, in production at Cambridge University Press (expected 2023 publication).  He earned the degree of A.B. from Brown University (1970) and the Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1980).  Steven Fraade was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in1988. During 1988–89 and in 1993 and 2015 he was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. He was Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Tel Aviv University in 2015. He is also the recipient of research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.  He has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and an honorary member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language (Jerusalem).  He is a former chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale and previously served as its director of graduate studies and director of undergraduate studies. For nine years he chaired the university’s Language Study Committee and for eleven years chaired its Program in Judaic Studies.

Chair: Professor Naomi Seidman is the Chancellor Jackman Humanities Professor in the Arts at the University of Toronto, with a split appointment between the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Her first book, A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish, appeared in 1997; her second, Faithful Renderings: Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation, in 2006. A third, The Marriage Plot, Or, How Jews Fell in Love with Love, and with Literature, appeared in 2016. A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Seidman is presently working on a study of the founding of Bais Yaakov in interwar Poland.

Time: 18:00-19:00 BST| 19:00-20:00 CET | 10:00-11:00 PT | 13:00-14:00 ET

Venue: Online

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