Eva Mroczek

EVA

Position Title
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

905 Sproul
Bio

Education and Degree(s):

  • PhD, Centre for the Study of Religion and Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto

Research Interest(s):

  • Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism
  • Literary Cultures of Hellenistic and Roman Judaism
  • Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Psalms, Prayer, and Lament in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism
  • History of Biblical Interpretation
  • Book History

Profile:

I study the texts and traditions of ancient Judaism, including the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings that modern scholars call "Apocrypha" and "Pseudepigrapha"--texts highly regarded in ancient religious communities, but excluded from the canonical Bibles of modern Jews and Christians. My major research questions concern how readers shape the meanings of their texts, and how these meanings are transformed over time. I focus most on how Jews of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods imagined their own world. But my own path to ancient Judaism began with an interest in modern Jewish thought and literature, so I am also interested in modern uses of ancient texts for literary, philosophical, and political ends. 

My first book, The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (in press, Oxford University Press, 2016) is a study of how early Jewish writers imagined sacred writing before the Bible existed as a concept. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940's revealed a world of early Jewish writing larger than the Bible: from multiple versions of biblical texts, to “revealed” books not found in modern canons. But despite this diversity, the idea of the Bible is so culturally iconic that it has been difficult to imagine an earlier Jewish world in which religious texts were organized and imagined in any other way. The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity suggests ways of thinking about how Jews understood their literature on their own terms. Using familiar sources, such as the Psalms, the Book of Ben Sira (Sirach), and the Book of Jubilees, it tells an unfamiliar story about sacred writing not yet contained in a particular and unified Bible.  In the minds of ancient Jewish writers, written revelation took fundamentally different shapes: as a wildly varied imagined repertoire stretching back to the dawn of time, only partially accessible, yet with new discoveries always around the corner. The study shows how even our most basic concepts--like "Bible" and "book"--are historically contingent and culturally particular. 

I am currently working on my second book,The Other David, an intellectual history of King David’s changing biographies from antiquity to the present. In the last twenty years, scholarly and popular works have claimed to uncover the “real” David, a figure of politics, war, and national identity. But in the history of Jewish interpretation--from its earliest recoverable layers--David is not primarily a symbol of national identity and politics: he is connected with religious experience, poetic inspiration, and the heavenly world. Why did premodern interpreters and contemporary scholars create such different heroes? This project argues that the current fascination with the ‘real’ or ‘historical’ David of secular politics is the latest interpretive reinvention of a figure who has been a shape-shifter throughout Jewish literary history. The figure of the psalmist-king becomes a lens for thinking about the fraught relationship between modern scholarship and religious interpretation, and for revealing our own interpretive priorities, so often tied to political commitments and the search for origins. 

Shorter works-in-progress include an article on why early Christians widely adopted the codex technology for their scriptures, while Jews continued to use scrolls; a pedagogical piece about teaching the Book of Job as black comedy with the help of the online comic, the Brick Testament; and several chapters in encyclopedias and collected volumes about the Psalms and other literature in Second Temple Judaism. 

Selected Publications:

Book:

The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity, Oxford University Press (2016), in press.

This book places early Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls in conversation with Book History to show how early Jews conceptualized and organized their own literature before the Bible, the codex, and modern authorship.

 

Articles:

“The Hegemony of the Biblical in the Study of Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Journal of Ancient Judaism 6, in press.

“The End of the Psalms in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Greek Codices, and Syriac Manuscripts,” Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Textual Fluidity, Manuscript Culture and New Philology (eds L.I. Lied and H. Lundhaug; de Gruyter), in press.  

“How Not to Build a Temple: Jacob, David, and the Unbuilt Ideal in Ancient Judaism,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 46 (2015) 1-35. http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/15700631-12340108

“‘David did not ascend into the heavens’ (Acts 2:34): Early Jewish Ascent Traditions and the Myth of Exegesis in the New Testament,” Judaïsme ancien – Ancient Judaism 3 (2015), 261-94. Abstract here: http://www.brepolsonline.net/doi/abs/10.1484/J.JAAJ.5.103822

“Thinking Digitally About the Dead Sea Scrolls: ‘Book History’ Before and Beyond the Book,” Book History 14, 235-63.  (Winner of Book History Graduate Essay Prize) Preview here: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/book_history/summary/v014/14.mroczek.html

 

Work published online:

“Jesus vs. Judaism… Again,” Review essay of David A. deSilva, The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude, Marginalia Review of Books,http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/jesus-vs-judaism-again-by-eva-mroczek/ 

“Anger, Privilege, and Invisible Injustice: What Cain and Abel have to do with Ferguson,” Religion Dispatches, Oct. 13
http://religiondispatches.org/anger-privilege-and-invisible-injustice-what-cain-and-abel-have-to-do-with-ferguson/ 

“Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Less Durable than Sexism Surrounding It,” Religion Dispatches, May 6
http://religiondispatches.org/gospel-of-jesus-wife-less-durable-than-sexism-surrounding-it/

“The Mark of Cain,” for Bible Odyssey, bibleodyssey.org, Society of Biblical Literature’s peer-reviewed public scholarship portal
http://www.bibleodyssey.net/people/related-articles/mark-of-cain.aspx 

“Whom Did Cain Marry?” for Bible Odyssey 
http://www.bibleodyssey.net/en/people/related-articles/whom-did-cain-marry.aspx 

 

Radio interview:

http://wfhb.org/news/the-custom-house-episode-10-the-ruins-of-biblical-hegemony-a-tale-told-at-qumran/

Teaching Experience:

Indiana University: 

  Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 

  Judaism in the Making 

  The Dead Sea Scrolls  

  Women in the Bible  

  Bible and Beyond – King David from the Iron Age to Late Antiquity (graduate/senior seminar) 

  Suffering and Lament in Ancient Judaism 

  Prophecy in Ancient Israel 

  Readings in Biblical Hebrew

  Aramaic Reading Group 

University of Toronto: 

  Reading Sacred Texts

  Lament and History in Jewish Texts 

  Intermediate Biblical Hebrew

Honors and Awards:

  • Frankel Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Fellowship, University of Michigan, Theme: Secularization/Sacralization, for “The Other David: Between the Tanakh and the Palmach,” January – May 2016
  • Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, Theme: Jews Beyond Reason, September – December 2015
  • Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award for undergraduate teaching, 2015