283 / Yehezkel Kaufmann and the Reinvention of Jewish Biblical Scholarship

Job Y. Jindo / Benjamin D. Sommer / Thomas Staubli (eds.)

2017 XVIII-382 pages, bound

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The biblical scholar, historian, and Jewish thinker Yehezkel Kaufmann (1889–1963) is best known for two magisterial works: a two-volume interpretation of Jewish history, Golah ve-nekhar (Exile and Alienation, 1928–1932), and a four-volume study of biblical religion, Toledot ha-emunah ha-yisre’elit (A History of the Israelite Faith, 1937–1956). Toledot in particular is the most monumental achievement of modern Jewish biblical scholarship. No other figure, not even Martin Buber, has had such a profound influence on the work of Jewish scholars of the Bible. Whether by supporting his ideas with new evidence, modifying them in light of new discoveries or methods, or attacking them, and whether addressing his work explicitly or implicitly, a substantial amount of modern Jewish biblical criticism builds upon the foundation set by Kaufmann. The latter’s phenomenological analysis of biblical monotheism as well as his critique of theoretical and methodological assumptions that are still dominant in historical studies in general, and biblical scholarship in particular, are an invaluable asset for those who engage in biblical scholarship, historical studies, and comparative religion.

The idea of this volume was conceived at an international symposium held in Switzerland, from June 10–11, 2014, “Yehezkel Kaufmann and the Reinvention of Jewish Exegesis of the Bible in Bern.” This gathering was held at the Universities of Bern and of Fribourg in order to commemorate the centenary of Yehezkel Kaufmann’s matriculation at the University of Bern on May 5, 1914, and to document and reassess the significance of his legacy and its reception. The symposium had three foci, corresponding with sections I-III of this volume: Kaufmann’s biography and intellectual background, his impact on Jewish studies, and his contribution to modern biblical scholarship.

The volume provides a comprehensive and multi-faceted account of Kaufmann’s work, through which Anglophone readers, students and scholars alike, can explore the hitherto unrecognized significance and profundity of Kaufmann’s legacy. It includes not only the symposium papers but also other essays, including two testimonies by two of his students, Menahem Haran and Moshe Greenberg and some of Kaufmann’s own writings—all heretofore unavailable in English—that are crucial for a fuller appreciation of his life project.

Contributors: Job Y. Jindo, Lawrence Kaplan, Othmar Keel, Israel Knohl, Thomas Krapf, Adrian Schenker, Benjamin D. Sommer, Thomas Staubli, Nili Wazana and Ziony Zevit.


Yehezkel Kaufmann (1889-1963) war der erste Israeli, der die Historische Kritik auf die Bibel anwandte und damit in die jüdische Tradition einführte. Einige betrachten ihn als «den größten und einflussreichsten jüdischen Bibelforscher der Moderne» (B. Sommer). Hundert Jahre nach seiner Immatrikulation als Student an der Universität Bern, wo er von 1914-1918 studierte, trafen sich jüdische und christliche Forscher zu einem Symposion in Bern und Fribourg, um Kaufmanns Relevanz für die Bibelwissenschaft, die Religionsgeschichte und das Selbstverständnis des Judentums zu ergründen. Der Band versammelt Beiträge von Job Y. Jindo, Lawrence Kaplan, Othmar Keel, Israel Knohl, Thomas Krapf, Adrian Schenker, Benjamin D. Sommer, Thomas Staubli, Nili Wazana und Ziony Zevit. Darüber hinaus bietet er einige zum ersten Mal aus dem Hebräischen und dem Deutschen übersetzte Schlüsseltexte von Kaufmann selbst sowie Zeugnisse von seinen Schülern Menahem Haran und Moshe Greenberg.


Job Y. Jindo is Associate Director of Academic Programs at the Tikvah Fund, New York. He has taught at New York University School of Law and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, while serving as Director of Academic Programs at New York University’s Tikvah Center for Law & Jewish Civilization. He holds a B.A. in Bible and Talmud from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1997), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard (1999), and a Ph.D. in Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (2006; awarded with distinction).


Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, since 2008. Previously, he served as director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, where he had taught since 1994. He holds a B.A. with distinction in Philosophy and Judaic Studies from Yale University (1986); an M.A. in Bible and Ancient Near East from Brandeis University (1991); and a PhD with distinction in Religion/Biblical Studies from the University of Chicago (1994).


Thomas Staubli is senior lecturer at the Department of Biblical Studies, University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Having studied at Fribourg, Jerusalem, Berlin and Bern, he holds a PhD in Theology (1989) from the University of Fribourg. In 1987–88 he was director of studies at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. 1989–1994 he established and directed the Biblical Pastoral Ministry of the Diocese of St. Gallen. From 1999 to 2012 he participated in the establishment of the BIBLE+ORIENT Museum and served as its first director until 2012. Co-director of the BIBLE+ORIENT Database online (BODO).