Dr. Hindy Najman studies Jewish texts dating back over 2,000 years, but to her they have lost none of their relevance in the two millennia since their creation. In fact, she said, she believes they have a timeless message.
“Jewish tradition is dynamic, active,” said Najman, and “responds to the world around it.”
Najman, who is director of the Centre for Jewish Studies and associate professor of the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, will bring this message to the Princeton Theological Seminary Monday, Feb. 22, when she delivers a talk on “Text Formation and Author Formation in Biblical Studies.”
The main idea of her talk, the annual Alexander Thompson Lecture, is “to speak to the development of the role of the authority and the role of the text in Jewish antiquity,” Najman said. “What’s the difference between Scripture itself and the interpretation of scripture?
For example, consider Moses. The biblical portrait of him as a “man of God,” described as being at a level “higher than the angels,” has carried different meanings over time. “How does that resonate with us as a community?” will be one of the themes she will address.
Najman was able to share her expertise with the wider public when she served as a consultant to an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The exhibit, a partnership with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, ran from last June through early January. The exhibit drew protests from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, contesting Israel’s ownership of the scrolls.
In the end, she said, the protests amounted to less than a “hiccup.”
“It was one of the most successful events that the [museum] ever held,” she said. “Millions of people came to this exhibit.”
Officials at the Princeton Theological Seminary, the largest Presbyterian seminary in the country, believe Najman’s scholarship in ancient Judaism enhances Christians’ study of the Bible.
“The more we know of ancient Judaism at the time, the better we are able to understand how what we as Christians call the Old Testament was interpreted and the better we are able to understand the New Testament,” said the seminary’s Dennis Olson, Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology and Chair of the Department of Biblical Studies.
Najman, who received her PhD from Harvard, is the author of Destruction, Mourning, and Renewal in Jewish Antiquity, scheduled to be published this summer. She has lectured throughout North America, Europe, and Israel and serves as editor-in-chief of Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplement Series.