29 January, 2024
We are deeply honoured to welcome Professor Aaron Koller, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Yeshiva University, USA, to lead a session of the Sacred Literature in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group.
Here are the details of this fascinating event.
Topic: The Talmud among Victorian Christians: Polemics and Humanism in Interfaith Encounters
Abstract: A Victorian intellectual or socialite could have learned about the Talmud from two types of literature: exposés of the depraved Jewish culture, such as the work of Alexander McCaul, and apologetic writings laying out the beauty of rabbinic thought, exemplified by an influential essay by Emanuel Deutsch. The talk will discuss some of the tactics used in each of these types of literature, and the reasons that each – in its own way – was so popular in Victorian England. In the academy, things took a different turn with the appointment of Solomon Marcus Schiller-Szinessy to be the first instructor of Rabbinics at Cambridge. This colorful figure’s legacy includes lasting contributions to scholarship; less well known is his theology. In sermons and writings spanning three decades, he laid out a worldview that included God’s involvement in the world, particularly in the corporate history of the Jews, while also embracing a profound pluralism. Schiller-Szinessy believed strongly in his own Jewish faith and simultaneously in the divine significance of Christianity. Remarkably – and perhaps not coincidentally – Schiller-Szinessy was also highly successful as a pedagogue in Cambridge, gathering a fluid circle of non-Jewish colleagues and students who were devoted to Rabbinics. The study of Talmud was seen as part of the broader humanities. Finally, the talk will conclude with some reflections on the implications of these models for the function and role of Rabbinics in the contemporary academy.
Speaker: Professor Aaron Koller, Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Yeshiva University, USA.
Speaker’s biography: Professor Koller studies the languages and history of the Near East from the Late Bronze Age through rabbinic times. He has written on biblical literature, the history of biblical interpretation, Semitic languages, and Jewish intellectual history. For the past few years he has been working on the history of writing, and of the alphabet in particular. He is the author of Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought (JPS/University of Nebraska Press, 2020) and Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2014), among other books, and the editor of five more. In 2022-2023, Professor Koller was a Bye-Fellow at Cambridge University and a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford. He has previously served as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and held research fellowships at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research and the Hartman Institute.
Chair: Professor Syed Atif Rizwan, Senior Fellow of the Oxford Interfaith Forum, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program, and Chair of the Department of Intercultural Studies and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union, IL, USA.
Date: 29 January, 2024
Time: 18:00-19:00 GMT| 19:00-20:00 CEST | 10:00-11:00 PST | 13:00-14:00 EST
If you would like to join the Sacred Literature in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group, please sign up here.
Recording of the session
Professor Aaron Koller’s books:
- The Talmud among Victorian Christians: Polemics and Humanism in Interfaith Encounters
- A Book for All Seasons: Medieval Liturgical Psalter
- Exile and Restoration in the Psalms
- Seventy Languages (and Translations) for Seventy Nations
- A Medieval Franciscan Consults the Jews: Nicholas of Lyra on how to Imagine the Temple
- The Qur’an and Kafka: The Trial of Jesus and Josef K
- Easter & Passover in Interfaith Contexts
- Conceptions of Revelation in Interfaith Contexts
- Strangers on a Train: Climate Change, Jewish Thought, and the Duty of Witness
- The Book of Isaiah and the Christian Quest for Revelation
- The Revelation at Sinai in Early Synagogue Poetry
- Eicha as Presentiment: Reading Lamentations in the Era of Climate Change
- From the People of the Book to the Books of the People: Christian Literature and the 19th Century Ottoman Turkish Literary World
- Reorienting Christian Understandings of Judaism: Insights from Biblical Scholarship
- Literary Form and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible
- How Christians Can Learn from the Devotional Poetry of Hindu South India
- Where does One Encounter the Divine? Dialogue Between the Sexes in the Talmud