Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review of Neusner biography

BOOK REVIEW: IS IT TIME TO TAKE THE MOST-PUBLISHED MAN IN HUMAN HISTORY SERIOUSLY? A new biography of Jacob Neusner examines his ‘complicated, colorful, and unappreciated intellectual life’ (Shaul Magid, Tablet).
... Thankfully, Aaron Hughes, the author of an extensive study of Neusner’s scholarly work on religion titled Jacob Neusner on Religion: The Example of Judaism, chose the second option in his Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast (NYU Press), which navigates through the often-turbulent waters of a complicated, colorful, and in many ways unappreciated, intellectual life.


There is a joke that in 200 years when scholars study Neusner they will think Neusner was a “school” and not a person. No one would imagine one individual could have produced that much work in such disparate areas, from late antique Judaism to the Holocaust, Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations, higher education, the humanities, and American politics (just to name a few). Hughes notes in his conclusion that Neusner may be “the most important American-born Jewish thinker this country has produced.” It is a huge claim, for sure, and therefore contestable, but upon reflection, it is actually quite reasonable.
Neuser isn't the most-published author in human history (see this list), but his output has been massive and, in many areas of Jewish studies, massively influential. This longish article surveys his intellectual background and influence.