Yonatan AdlerJul 29, 2023
The Origins of Judaism
An Archaeological-Historical Reappraisal
Yale University Press 2022
In The Origins of Judaism: An Archaeological-Historical Reappraisal (Yale University Press, 2022), Yonatan Adler pursues the societal adoption of recognizable Jewish practices by Judeans in antiquity with the ultimate aim of establishing a particular terminus ante quem (temporal limit before which) these practices must have become widespread. Sifting through both textual and archaeological evidence for the aversion to graven images/figural artwork, dietary restrictions, synagogue worship, circumcision, the Sabbath as a day of rest, Judean festivals, and more, Adler’s “social history” demonstrates that such observances can be conclusively dated at various points within the second century BCE—but not on any meaningful scale before this crucial time of the Maccabean revolt and Israel’s brief period of Hasmonean self-rule. Adler joined the New Books Network to discuss his potentially paradigm-shifting findings, which contrast strongly with claims from the Hebrew Bible and much of biblical scholarship that, on the basis of “intellectual history,” prefer to locate Jewish origins in the postexilic Persian Achaemenid period (ca. 539–332 BCE) if not significantly earlier than this.
Yonatan Adler (Ph.D., Bar-Ilan University, 2011) is Associate Professor in Archaeology at Ariel University in Israel, where he also heads its Institute of Archaeology. Adler specializes in the origins of Judaism as a system of ritual practices, and in the evolution of these practices over the long-term. Previously, his research has focused on ritual purity observance evidenced in the archaeological remains of chalk vessels and immersion pools, and he has also published extensively on ancient tefillin (phylacteries) from Qumran and elsewhere in the Judean Desert. Dr. Adler has directed excavations at several sites throughout Israel, and from 2019 to 2020 he held the appointment of Horace W. Goldsmith Visiting Associate Professor in Judaic Studies at Yale University.
Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, please see his website at https://www.robheaton.com.