About

Interests

Hebrew Bible; wisdom literature; instruction transmission; biblical poetry and poetics; philology; the history of biblical scholarship.

I founded the Philology in Hebrew Studies program unit, which I now co-chair with David Lambert, and chair the Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology program unit at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting.

I am an editor of Studies in Cultural Contexts of the Bible, a new English, German, and French language monograph series with Brill.

Together with David Lambert, Eva Mroczek, and Laura Quick, I run Renewed Philology, an international working group of scholars in biblical studies whose work reflects critically on the intellectual frameworks of the reader that are brought to bear in philological practice.

Research

My research focuses on the formation of the Hebrew Bible, its various genres and modes of discourse against the broader background of ancient Near Eastern literary production, and its reception in and impact on Western scholarship. Broadly, my work seeks to recover the values of ancient literary culture through the language of the texts and examines how these values were reshaped in their reception.

On my first book:

“Central to understanding the prophecy and prayer of the Hebrew Bible are the unspoken assumptions that shaped them–their genres. Modern scholars describe these works as ‘poetry,’ but there was no corresponding ancient Hebrew term or concept. Scholars also typically assume it began as “oral literature,” a concept based more in evolutionist assumptions than evidence. Is biblical poetry a purely modern fiction or is there a more fundamental reason why its definition escapes us?

Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms changes the debate by showing how biblical poetry has worked as a mirror, reflecting each era’s own self-image of verbal art. Yet Vayntrub also shows that this problem is rooted in a crucial pattern within the Bible itself: the texts we recognize as “poetry” are framed as powerful and ancient verbal performances, dramatic speeches from the past. The Bible’s creators presented what we call poetry in terms of their own image of the ancient and the oral, and understanding their native theories of Hebrew verbal art gives us a new basis to rethink our own.”

See the book on the Routledge page.

A special offer of the book at the Yale Divinity School Bookstore can be found here.

My next book is currently underway. Reframing Biblical Poetry (under contract with Yale University Press in the Anchor Bible Reference Library series), takes the central insight of my first book—that poetry’s narrative and non-narrative frames shape its meaning—to present fresh readings of well known texts. The book has three sections, where I will explore how poetry is framed by narrative, in character voices; how poetry is arranged in anthology, not in a character’s voice, but by the names and personages of legendary characters; and how some of these ideas manifest as literary features.

Yet another project involves theorizing  knowledge transmission and its gendered dimensions through the lens of human mortality. For what will eventually be a book, tentatively titled Seeking Eternity: Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in Biblical Literature, I have already produced a number of essays examining the depiction of lineage and succession as strategies for transcending individual death in wisdom and narrative texts. One article forthcoming in the Pardee Festschrift, entitled “Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in the Tale of Aqhat,” shows how the Ugaritic tale of Aqhat constructs a father-daughter alternative to succession. A second forthcoming essay in a collected volume, “Ecclesiastes and The Problem of Transmission in Biblical Literature,” examines Ecclesiastes against ancient Near Eastern instruction and Platonic dialogues, recovering an ancient question about the stability of transmission: Is speech reliable when it is detached from the living speaker’s voice? A third essay, forthcoming in a volume on Ben Sira, “Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Ben Sira and Proverbs,” re-examines the evolutionary framework in the study of biblical wisdom literature, and presents an alternative framework, in which instruction can be read as a discourse of trans-generational survival. A fourth essay, “Like Father, Like Son: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical Literature,” forthcoming in an issue of the journal Hebrew Bible Ancient Israel, considers how literary techniques such as “command and fulfillment” manifest broader social and intellectual values and can give us hints as to what biblical authors understood by “transmission” in their depiction of the passage of objects, responsibility, instruction, and text from one generation to the next.

These inquiries also intellectually situate the text editions I am currently producing with Matthew Suriano for the SBL Writings of the Ancient World Series, Hebrew and Aramaic Writings about the Dead from Judah and Judea: Eighth cent. BCE through First cent. BCE.

Education

PhD, with honors, University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
MA, University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
MA, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bible and its World
BA, UCLA, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

Other Publications

Book

Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms. The Ancient Word: New Discoveries in Religion and Language from the Biblical and Near Eastern World, ed. Seth L. Sanders. Routledge. Published March, 2019.

Recently Published

“The Age of the Bible and Ancient Near East: Intellectual Developments and Highlights,” in The Routledge Handbook of Jewish History and Historiography, edited by Dean Phillip Bell.

“Like Father, Like Son: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical Literature.” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel. Edited by Hindy Najman, Nathan MacDonald, and Jonathan Stoekl.

Forthcoming

“Tyre’s Glory and Demise: The Poetics of Description in Ezekiel 27.” Catholic Bible Quarterly.

“Ecclesiastes and The Problem of Transmission in Biblical Literature,” in Writing and  Scribalism: Authors, Audiences, and Texts in Social Perspective, edited by Mark Leuchter. T&T Clark.

“Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Ben Sira and Proverbs,” in proceedings of the Virginia Ben Sira Conference, July 2017, edited by Gregory Goering, Matthew Goff, and Samuel Adams. Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplements. Leiden: Brill.

“Torah as Speech Performance in the Hebrew Bible,” in proceedings of Ninth Enoch Seminar: From torah to Torah: Variegated Notions of Torah from the First Temple Period to Late Antiquity, Camaldoli, Italy, June 2017, edited by William Schniedewind and Jason Zurawski. Early Judaism and its Literature Series. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

“Proverbs,” The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature edited by Samuel Adams and Matthew Goff.

“Mashal (Proverb),” Encyclopedia of Biblical Reception (EBR).

“Skill: Wisdom, Advice, and Technique,” in The Oxford Handbook of Wisdom and Wisdom Literature, edited by Will Kynes. Oxford University Press.

“Ancient Hebrew Literature,” in How Literature Begins, edited by Denis Feeney and Joel Lande. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Popular Publications

Sexy Sunday School: Naughty Bible Translation,” JSTOR Daily Magazine. October 2015

Who is the Eshet Chayil?” Online publication of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), thetorah.com. June 2014.

How Should One Teach ‘Introduction to Jewish Studies’?” AJS Perspectives. Fall 2014.

“‘Her Name was Tamar’: Invasive, Destructive, Redemptive” Online publication of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), thetorah.com. December 2017.

“Voice and Presence in the Genesis Apocryphon.” A Genius for Mentorship: A Forum in Honor of Ben Wright on his 65th Birthday. Ancient Jew Review. January 2018.

Projects

Books forthcoming/in preparation

Reframing Biblical Poetry. Anchor Bible Reference Library. Yale University Press. Under contract.

Hebrew and Aramaic Writings about the Dead from Judah and Judea: Eighth cent. BCE through First cent. BCE. Writings from the Ancient World, Society of Biblical Literature. (With Matthew Suriano). Under contract.

Seeking Eternity: Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in Biblical Literature. Manuscript in preparation.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

Recent book discussion panel at Yale University. Panel on Beyond Orality, featuring Laura Quick, Yii-Jan Lin, Christophe Schuwey, Joel Baden (chair), with opening remarks by Seth Sanders, Ancient Word Series editor. March 29, 2019.

Recent lecture at Renmin University, Beijing, China: “Solomon’s Voice: Speech and Genre in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature.” The King’s Speech: The Royal Voice in Antiquity Conference. Center for the Study of Ancient Text Cultures, Renmin University of China, Beijing. April 12-13, 2019.

Recent lecture at Princeton University:  “Wisdom or deeds? Qohelet’s Voice and Solomon’s Annals.” Legendary Characters: Attribution and Personhood in Ancient Judaism. Program in Judaic Studies, Princeton University. April 29, 2019.

Recent lecture at Yale University: “In the Eye of the Beholder: Failing Bodies in Biblical Prophecy and Wisdom.” Ekphrasis and the Visual Imagination in Antiquity. Yale University. May 6, 2019.

Recent lecture at New York University: “Orality, Memory, and the Voice in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East.” Memory and Forgetting: Theorizing from the Late Antique and Medieval Near East. New York University. May 8, 2019.

Upcoming keynote lecture at Authoritative Texts and Their Reception (ATTR) Research Seminar: Orality, Textuality, and Tradition, Research Council of Norway, Tromsø: “The Displaced Voice: Modern Questions of Orality and Ancient Problems of Speech Quotation.” June 4, 2019.

Upcoming lecture at International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome: Poetic Bodies: How Beauty and Success take Poetic Form in Biblical Literature,” in Stylistics in the Hebrew Bible. July, 2019.

Upcoming book review panel of Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms at the British Association of Jewish Studies, Oxford, UK. July, 2019.

Upcoming public lecture at the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, UNC Chapel Hill. “How Biblical Poetry Works,” Chapel Hill, NC, August 26, 2019.

Upcoming book review panel of Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms at New York University, New York City, NY. September, 2019.

Memberships

Society of Biblical Literature

Association for Jewish Studies

Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS), external member

Jacqueline Vayntrub

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@vayntrub

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