Episode 67: How Jews Translate the Bible and Why

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University

Saadia Gaon (882-942) is considered the father of Judeo-Arabic literature; his translation of the Bible into Arabic enabled the large portion of Judaism living in Arabic speaking lands to engage with the sacred texts.

Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.

In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.

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Episode 63: Ezra and the Compilation of the Pentateuch

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Richard Bautch, Associate Professor of Humanities, St Edward’s University, Austin

The authorship of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament–known as the Torah or the Pentateuch–has been traditionally attributed to Moses. This raised some questions, however: would the most humble of men really describe himself as such? During the Enlightenment, scholars identified four distinct authors of the Pentatuch, creating the long-standing “Documentary Hypothesis.”  In the past twenty five years, a new trend in Biblical Studies has begun to challenge this long held view.

Guest Richard Bautch from St Edward’s University in Austin is one of the scholars taking a new look at the Biblical figure Ezra and his relationship to this critical text. In this episode, we discuss current thinking about the formation of the Pentateuch during the time of Ezra.

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Episode 55: Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

Stories of witches and witch-hunting in early modern Europe have captivated us for centuries. During the early modern period of European history, stretching from roughly 1450 to about 1750, about 100,000 people—most of them women—were tried for the crime of witchcraft. About half of these people were executed, in most cases by burning at the stake. But witchcraft is more than just a Halloween story–for the men and women involved it was a very real, very frightening aspect of daily life.

Guest Brian Levack explains that, at its heart, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are based in the all too human need to explain the ordinary cycles of birth, death, sickness, wellness, and the constant struggle between rich and poor.

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Episode 29: The Slavic Vampire

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Thomas Garza, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies & Texas Language Center

NosferatuShadowLong before Bill and Sookie, Bella and Edward, there was the upyr’, a mythical creature that caused crops to fail, infants to die in their cribs, and plagues to spread throughout the Slavic lands of eastern Europe. How did we go from upyr’ to Vampire: the creature of the night who survives by drinking on blood and sparkles in the sunshine? And, more importantly, what can we learn about medieval Eastern Europe by talking about vampire myths and mythology?

Guest Thomas Garza takes us on the trail of vampires from their eleventh century origins to the days of Stoker, Harris, and Meyer, and helps us learn a thing or two about how society copes with its deepest fears along the way.

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Episode 28: “Demonic Possession” in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

LevackMariazellDescriptions of common men and women convulsing violently, speaking in tongues,  expelling foreign objects like nails and pins, and levitating above their beds seem ripped out of the pages of a bestselling horror novel, or the plot to a (hopeful) blockbuster movie. But, in fact, medieval church records from the 16th and 17th century recount hundreds of cases like these, in which the afflicted was reported to be possessed by a demon or the Devil himself.

In this supernatural-themed episode (just in time for Halloween!), guest Brian Levack talks about his latest book The Devil Within: Possessions and Exorcism in the Christian West, and his research into the deeper social causes and meanings of these alleged “demonic possessions” in early modern Europe.

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