Neusner, Jacob

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Neusner, Jacob

Jacob Neusner, 1932–2016, American scholar and historian of Judaism, b. West Hartford, Conn, B.A. Harvard, 1953, M.A. Jewish Theological Seminary, 1960), Ph.D. Columbia, 1960. Regarded as the world's most prolific author, Neusner wrote more than 1,000 books (not including many translations) as well as essays, editorials, and other pieces. Influential but often controversial, he particularly studied ancient Jewish rabbinical texts, pioneering in treating them as historical, social, and literary works and playing a central role in their incorporation into humanities studies in secular educational institutions. His theory, in Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah (1981), that there were multiple Judaisms following the fall of the Second Temple (AD 70), sparked dispute, and he rejected the idea that the Jewish people were special or chosen. His major works include massive editions and translations of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, although they have been accused of being marred by errors, and A History of the Jews in Babylonia (5 vol., 1965–70). His nonscholarly books include The Way of Torah (1970) and Judaism: An Introduction (2002). He also wrote about Christianity (e.g., A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, 1993), Jewish-Christian relations, the Holocaust (e.g., Strangers at Home: The Holocaust, Zionism, and American Judaism, 1981), Zionism, comparative religion, higher education, and U.S. conservative politics. Neusner taught at Dartmouth (1964–68), Brown (1968–90), and Bard (1994–2014).

See biography by A. W. Hughes (2016).

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