Friday, July 10, 2009

First the Bad News, then some Good News

I'm a bit late on some of this, but here goes:

First, I found out this week that I am but a second choice for a position I had applied for and some one else will be filling the bill. Congratulations to that person whomever he or she may be.

Second, Martin Hengel died last week, Thursday I think, after a bout with cancer at age 82. Hengel was instrumental in Second Temple Judaism, Christian Origins, and early Rabbinics. He reopened the door to consideration of the shape of late Second Temple Judaism(s) as the mileau of the early Christian movement in his magisterial Judaism and Hellenism, the translation of his 1973 Judentum und Hellenismus. In that work, Hengel set the groundwork that has now become the shape of the field. Before his work, it was customary to talk about "Hellenistic Judaism" in the Diaspora, particularly at Alexandria, and "Palestinian Judaism" as differing approaches to being Jewish in the Greco-Roman world. Palestinian Judaism was largely seen as more consertive, Semitic, Temple oriented etc while Hellenistic Judaism was seen as more liberal, taking part in the larger Hellenistic culture, and concerned with merging the Torah and Greek philosophy as in the works of Philo. Hengel's work showed that it was not a question of "Hellenism vs. Resistance to Hellenism" in late Judaism, but rather "how Hellenistic was X", that is, all Second Temple Jews of whatever group in the Roman Empire were to some degree Hellenistic, even the Sadducees who oversaw the Temple and some of the early Rabbis in Palestine. Likewise, one finds conservative "Semitizing" elements in Diaspora Judaism as well. So he argued that a simple dichotomy of Diaspora vs. Palestine, Hellenistic vs. Semitizing was not a valid approach.

I read that book first in 1986, and read it through twice and have read in it many times. Masterful. If only I had the gifts to create such a work. Hengel wrote other influential works, or at least ones that questioned current assumptions such as his Acts and Earliest Christian History that to some degree bucked the trend to reading Acts purely as fiction, The Zealots is a very good book, and there are others spanning the field. It is sad to see him go.

Carin Ruff blogging at Ruff Notes notes the passing of Virginia Brown of PIMS. She too apparently has had a bout of cancer. I never knew her personally, but I do know that when I wanted to go to Toronto that she was one whom various contacts said I should get to know and be sure to take her palaeography class. Generations of PIMS and U Toronto students have done so, and her impact can be seen in their work, though she doesn't seem to have published extensively herself. She translated Boccacio's "Famous Women" and was apparently working on some Caesar Bellum Civile. Nonetheless, my condolences to all who knew her.


Update and Clarification: Carin Ruff dropped this comment in, where else, the comments and I thought it best to have it here so that others will see it:


Thanks for the link about VB. To clarify: the focus of Prof. Brown's life's work was manuscripts in Beneventan script, and her extensive publications were mainly notices of new manuscript discoveries, many published over the years in Mediaeval Studies and collected in Terra Sancti Benedicti: Studies in the Palaeography, History and Liturgy of Medieval Southern Italy. VB was one of E.A. Lowe's last assistants on CLA. It's an interesting metacomment on the intersection of our interdisciplinary profession with disciplinary databases that the products of such a monumental life's work can lie all but hidden even from other medievalists. (I mean this not as a criticism of you, but a rumination on the balkanization of our field.)


Like Intel, our Medieval Rock Stars aren't like other rock stars (Michael Jackson), but no less rock stars for all that.

But now the good news:

Friend and co-blogger (though he owns it) at Modern Medieval Matthew Gabriele appears twice, count it, twice in the latest issue of Speculum! His review of Rosamund McKitterick's Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity appears on pg. 753 and Matt's own book The Legend of Charlemagne in the Middle Ages: Power, Faith, and Crusade made it into the Brief Notices section. Congratulations Matt!

PostMedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies now has a website as well as a cover design. Kudos to Eileen Joy and all involved.


If you've been just wondering what to do over the weekend, let me suggest some Altoid catapults and binder clip trebuchets. Lifehacker saves the day AGAIN!

And utterly unrelated to anything medieval or scholarly, but Eureka returns this evening with a new season AND I've hooked the Spouse so I don't have to wrestle with her for the remote.

Also, test your knowledge of current events at McSweeney's Star Wars or Iran quiz.

2 comments:

CR said...

Thanks for the link about VB. To clarify: the focus of Prof. Brown's life's work was manuscripts in Beneventan script, and her extensive publications were mainly notices of new manuscript discoveries, many published over the years in Mediaeval Studies and collected in Terra Sancti Benedicti: Studies in the Palaeography, History and Liturgy of Medieval Southern Italy. VB was one of E.A. Lowe's last assistants on CLA. It's an interesting metacomment on the intersection of our interdisciplinary profession with disciplinary databases that the products of such a monumental life's work can lie all but hidden even from other medievalists. (I mean this not as a criticism of you, but a rumination on the balkanization of our field.)

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Hengel was a giant in the field, no doubt. I got to met him and hear him speak once when he dropped by one of our departmental colloquia.

Part of the inside scoop on him is that his vast work on Hellenism and Judaism was done in order to cut the foundations out from under Bultmann's History of the Synoptic Tradition.