Aramaic in Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity


While the administrative responsibility for this Seminar will be borne by the two co-directors, Paul Fleshers and Eric Meyers, the intellectual design and scholarly and educational activities will be shared by three people, the co-directors and the key consultant, Professor Lucas Van Rompay of Duke University. The three of them are united in the project's goal of increasing the knowledge of this important ancient language and its texts. Each of the three brings different strengths to the project which will give it the intellectual dynamism that will enable it to be successful Seminar for the participants.

PAUL FLESHER has been studying and writing on the targums (Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible) for over two decades. He currently serves as President of the International Organization for Targumic Studies. While his doctoral training was primarily in the writings of Rabbinic Judaism, he has extended his research into the history and society of late Second-Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, resulting in several articles on the early synagogue. In recent years, his interest in placing the targums in their proper religious and social context has led him into research on the history and development of Aramaic dialects in Palestine and surrounding areas. Flesher also has served as the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming since 1993.

ERIC MEYERS has directed excavations at Sepphoris for fifteen years and is known the world over as an expert in Galilean archaeology. Dr. Meyers' reputation as a leading archaeologist of the ancient Near East extends beyond his work at Sepphoris. He has directed archaeological excavations for over 30 years and in that time has authored or co-authored nine books and over 300 articles. He also served as Editor-in-Chief for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology of the Near East and as co-author of the Cambridge Companion to the Bible. He is past president of the American Schools of Oriental Research, the American society promoting archaeological research in the Near East and the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. It is less widely known that Professor Meyers directs one of the few doctoral programs in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and ancient Near East that requires extensive knowledge of Aramaic by its graduates--much of it taught by Dr. Meyers. He is thus well-suited to be the primary leader for history and literature. He is also Director of the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke.

LUCAS VAN ROMPAY is an Aramaist who specializes in Syriac. He has published and translated a number of Syriac texts and has written widely about linguistic, literary, and historical issues related to Syrian Christianity. Before coming to Duke in 2000 he had been, since 1977, professor of Aramaic at Leiden University (The Netherlands). In this capacity he has taught a wide variety of Aramaic language forms. He will be the main support for the study of Syriac as well as the leader for the lectures on the history of the Aramaic language.

The supplementary instructors that we have chosen to visit our Seminar all bring with them expertise in fields not adequately covered by the organizers. In addition, each brings an area of specialization that will open up additional areas of further research for our participants. A brief note on each of them is included.

DOUGLAS GROPP received his Ph.D. from Harvard University with a dissertation The Samaria Papyri from the Wâdi ed-Dâliyeh (196, with distinction). He presently teaches in the Department of Semitics at the Catholic University of Washington. He is the author of The Samaria Papyri from Wadi Daliyeh. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXVIII (Oxford: Clarendon 2001).

HAYIM LAPIN has his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1994, with distinction). He specializes in the history of Palestine and Judaism in Antiquity and is the author of the following books: Early Rabbinic Civil Law and the Social History of Roman Galilee. A Study of Mishnah Tractate Baba' Mesi`a. Brown Judaic Studies Series 307 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995) and Historical Geography and Provincial History in Fourth Century Galilee and Golan. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001). He presently teaches in the Department of History at the University of Maryland.

CHRISTINE C. SHEPARDSON graduated from Duke University with a dissertation In the Service of Orthodoxy: Anti-Jewish Language and Intra-Christian Conflict in the Writings of Ephrem the Syrian (2003). Her fields of expertise and interests include early Christianity, Second-Temple Judaism, and the history of Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism. She presently teaches at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

MICHAEL SOKOLOFF is professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, with special expertise in Aramaic linguistics and literature of the late Second-Temple and Rabbinic periods. Among his major contributions to the Aramaic field are three dictionaries: (A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine Period, 1990; A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods, 2002); A Dictionary of Judean Aramaic, 2003) and, jointly with Christa Müller-Kessler, a five-volume publication of Christian Palestinian Aramaic texts (1996-1999).