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Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Jonathan Ben-Dov

“At the IAS I had the privilege of associating with an extraordinary group of scholars, as well as benefitting from a wise and experienced team of IAS directors.”

Dr Jonathan Ben-Dov, University of Haifa

IAS Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University (January - March 2013)

Dr Jonathan Ben-Dov is senior lecturer in the Department of Bible at the University of Haifa, Israel. His main scholarly agenda is to highlight the role of ancient time-reckoning as Humanities: not only as a technical discipline but rather as a primary source for the construction of identities and the invention of tradition. He studies the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism with other ancient literature. Alongside general studies on biblical historiography and prophecy, he is an expert for Time reckoning and astronomy in the Ancient World: the cuneiform culture, Ancient Judaism, and the Hellenistic culture. He has special interest in expressions of scientific ideas - astronomy, astrology and cosmology - in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dr Ben-Dov has been a co-author (with Shemaryahu Talmon and Uwe Glessmer) of the official publication of calendrical scrolls from Qumran, appearing in Oxford University Press (2001). His book Head of All Years was published in 2008. He is currently editing two other collections about ancient calendars and astronomy: Living the Lunar Calendar (with John Steele and Wayne Horowitz), and a volume on Ancient Jewish Sciences (with Seth Sanders), due to appear in New York University Press. Dr Ben-Dov was granted the Michael Bruno Memorial Prize for 2010 (given by the Rothschild Fund in Israel), and has been a fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York University (2010/11). He is director of an Inter-university research and graduate group on Jewish Culture in the Ancient World.

His current work includes an in depth study of a Jewish astronomy book from the third century BCE (now part of the Book of Enoch), preserved in a variety of languages, including Aramaic and Geez (classical Ethiopic).

During his Fellowship at the IAS Dr Ben-Dov will explore the topic "What makes a Year Complete: A Reflection on Law and Ideology in Ancient Jewish Sources". In addition is organizing an international conference with Durham's, Dr Lutz Doering, "The Construction of Time in Antiquity".

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - “Time, Language and Prophecy in the Dead Sea Scrolls”

7th March 2013, 19:30, St John's College

The literature contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls was mostly written by an extremist group, apocalyptic in nature, which practiced strict segregation from the rest of the nation and severe laws of purity. The scrolls are mostly studied through this prism. However, the extraordinary blend of beliefs and practices which materialized in this ancient sect generated a series of surprisingly deep reflection on the fundamentals of human existence. These reflections are informed on the one hand by the apocalyptic background of the Yahad community (as the Qumran sectaries call themselves), while on the other hand one may detect in them a reflection to the Hellenistic Zeitgeist of the time. The sect was a traditionalist one and thus had to buttress its teachings in biblical concepts to prove their antiquity and reliable provenance, but indeed the concepts were quite often innovative and reactionist. In the lecture we shall examine the sectarian reflection of Time and on Language, as the two of them were fashioned through the prism of the biblical institution of Prophecy.

Listen to this lecture in full.

Dr Jonathan Ben-Dov Publications

Ben-Dov J., Doering, L. (2017) The Construction of Time in Antiquity: Ritual, Art and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ben-Dov J (2015) 'Calendars and Festivals' in Strawn, B (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ben-Dov J (2015) 'Priests and the Cult in the Book of Malachi according to Neo-Babylonian Sources", in S. Yona et al (eds.) Marbeh Hokhma. Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East in Loving Memory of Victor A. Hurowitz. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, pp. 73-90.

Ben-Dov, J (2013) 'Early Jewish Texts of the Torah: Revisiting the Greek Scholarly Context', Journal of Ancient Judaism, 4, pp 210-234.

IAS Insights Paper


This paper investigates ways to uncover ideological and epistemological presuppositions behind legalistic statements. Commencing with several examples from cuneiform and Greek literature, it then focuses on early Jewish literature of the Graeco-Roman period. The question at stake is the human control over the natural flow of time: can mankind tame time using man-made categories like the month and the year, or must mankind align itself with divinely-ordained categories of time, with no human intervention allowed? Generally speaking, sectarian Jewish circles held the latter opinion, while the somewhat later rabbinic stance promoted the former opinion in a highly explicit polemic. The paper examines one specific moment in rabbinic literature, in which this strong ideological stance is compromised and an ideal year (i.e. devoid of any human influence) is embraced. We draw the circumstances for this preference and speculate as to the ideological stance of its proponent, Rabbi Judah the Prince.

Insights Paper