Scholarship

“Neusner moved the study of Judaism from Near Eastern Language or History departments into Religious Studies”

As both a scholar and an academic politician, Neusner moved the study of Judaism from Near Eastern Language or History departments into Religious Studies. This move allowed for the study of Judaism as a religious ideology rather than as a precursor for Christianity or a metonym for the modern state of Israel. It created space to speak about Judaism in conceptual and philosophical ways that were familiar to the largely Protestant field. This shift was essential to the popularization of rabbinics as a field within American universities. By playing ancient Judaism in a Protestant key, Neusner made rabbinics necessary to the study of ancient Christianity and a staple of every major Religious Studies program in the country. And since he trained his students to work in universities in this field, he could place his students in these newly-created positions.

Barry Wimpfheimer, “A Biography or a Hagiography?” a review of Aaron Hughes’ Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast, Religious Studies Review, vol. 44, no. 1 (March 2018), 76.