Monday, January 01, 2018

Jonathan Z. Smith, R.I.P.

SAD NEWS: Jonathan Z. Smith Has Died. The news has been spreading through the internet over the last day or so. This post on James Tabor's blog gives the obituary circulated by the late Professor Smith's wife. Professor Tabor also links to an AAR lecture by Professor Smith from 2010: Remembering Jonathan Z. Smith.

I met Jonathan Z. Smith at a conference on ancient magic in 1998 in California. We had a couple of very illuminating and helpful conversations about the book I was writing at the time, Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature. I thanked him for these in the book's preface. He was also influential in my thinking about how to conceptualize Judaism in antiquity and the present, on which more here. I developed these ideas in my book, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other?

I also draw on his ideas in my lectures on Judaism in our first-year Introduction to World Religions at the University of St. Andrews. It was taught most recently in the autumn of 2017.

Professor Smith's contributions to methodological rigor in the field of religious studies, not least biblical studies, was enormous. A giant in the field is gone. Requiescat in pace.

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