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 51: Islam’s Enigmatic Origins

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Fred M. Donner, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago

cleansing meccaThe story of Islam’s beginnings have been told and retold countless times. The traditional narrative says that the Prophet Muhammad, an illiterate orphan from the town of Mecca,  became a prophet of God and founded a community that conquered much of the known world in little more than a century after his death. But what do we really know about Muhammad and the time in which he lived, based on historical evidence? How has this led some to reinterpret the origins of Islam?

Our guest, Fred M. Donner from the University of Chicago, has spent much of his career studying the earliest history of Islam. He offers his hypothesis on what the early Islamic community may have looked like, and describes an exciting new find that may shed new light on an old puzzle.

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Episode 47: Indian Ocean Trade from its Origins to the Eve of Imperialism

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Susan Douglass, doctoral candidate, George Mason University

Ibn Battuta was a pilgrim who left his native Morocco for Mecca in 1325 and traveled over 73,000 miles before finally returning home thirty years later.

Every American schoolchild knows that Columbus sailed west to reach Asia with the hope of finding precious metals, expensive fabrics, and exotic spices: all goods that were being traded in the Indian Ocean, and had been for millennia. Ancient Greek texts describe an active Indian Ocean economy. Some scholars have even linked the peopling of Australia to a slow, methodic collecting of resources along the coastal route from east Africa.

In the first of a two part episode guest Susan Douglass, author of the Indian Ocean in World History web site, describes the murky beginnings of trade and travel in the Indian Ocean basin, and the cultural exchanges and influences that the trade had in the days before the Europeans arrived.

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Episode 45: An Iranian Intellectual Visits Israel

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Samuel Thrope, Fellow, Martin Buber Society, Hebrew University

al-e ahmadAnyone following the news today could be forgiven for thinking that Iran and Israel were natural enemies and had been since the latter was established in 1948. But before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, the two nations had a close unofficial relationship that extended beyond economic and commercial ties. In 1962, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, arguably the most influential Iranian writer of the twentieth century, visited Israel on an officially sponsored visit and published a travelogue of his experience.

Guest Samuel Thrope, a writer currently based in Jerusalem, has just translated Al-e Ahmad’s Safar beh Velayat-e Ezrael into English as The Israeli Republic, a fascinating look at a time when Iranian socialists looked at Israel as a possible model for what Iran could become—and how that vision soured after the 1967 Six Day War.

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Episode 10: The Spanish Inquisition

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Miriam Bodian, Professor, Department of History

Auto de fé, Plaza Mayor, Madrid, 1683

The Spanish Inquisition has cast a long shadow in the public imagination, with Inquisitors playing the role of villain on stage and screen. But what was the Inquisition-really? Established in 1480 to deal with heresies under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Spanish Inquisition was a highly regulated institution with enormous political and legal power whose influence reached all the way to the Americas for over three hundred years.

Guest Miriam Bodian from UT’s Department of History separates truth from legend and reveals the intricacies of the Inquisition’s processes and inner workings.

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