The University of Chicago is the sort of place to make academics go a little weak at the knees. It’s a very serious University. The Doctoral Programme in Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago is renowned for its quality and, frankly, the vast amount of work a candidate has to put in before they get the letters ‘PhD’ after their name. It is the toughest of the toughest place to excel as a scholar of Jewish thought, and much of the credit for this, at least in the last twenty years, belongs with our Quest lecturer, Michael Fishbane.
Of course Prof Fishbane has the rigorous grounding in Ancient Near East culture, history and language that one would need to – for example – take single-handed responsibility for all the Old Testament entries in the Harpers Bible Dictionary or write the best single volume work on the Haforot for every occasion in the year. But more than that he’s documented the way the text has been read and understood by Jews over thousands of years. He’s done more than any other contemporary scholar to unpack the way early-Jews and Rabbinic Jews venerated the Bible, not as a record of historical actuality, but as a myth – a story told to move us. This academic engagement has, more recently, driven a remarkable work of theology. In ‘Sacred Attunement’ Professor Fishbane tries to do personally and today the very thing he has spent a career observing others doing in the ancient past. His claim is that, even in today’s ‘dark and disorientating time’ we can come to an understanding of God by reading texts and becoming increasingly attuned to their nuance and wisdom. It’s a tremendous, and tremendously beautiful, work.
This Sunday 13th March, 7pm, Professor Fishbane will share his insights into how Jews have read the Song of Songs. It promises to be very special evening. If you are interested in why and how we, Jews, read our Bible and even more so if you are interested in what we have gleaned from centuries of engagement with the most poetic and passionate of the books of the Bible, I do hope you will join us.
We are grateful to the Quest Lecture co-sponsors, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Hebrew Studies where Professor Fishbane is a Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation Visiting Fellow.