Dr. Marc Brettler.
(photo credit: SERVIZIO FOTOGRAFICO “L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO”)
You were born in 1958 in Brooklyn, the borough with the largest Jewish population. Then you went on to Brandeis University, a nondenominational but at least half-Jewish university, where you earned your BA, MA and PhD. Today you are best-known as a scholar of the New Testament. Please explain your unanticipated journey.I grew up in a traditional Jewish family and attended the Orthodox Flatbush Yeshiva, where I acquired a classic Jewish education, in which the emphasis was on what the famed rabbinical interpreters understood in the text. There I acquired excellent tools to read the text and commentaries in the original Hebrew. I had the good fortune at Brandeis University to take a course with Prof. Nahum Sarna, who gave a historical perspective not only to puzzle out what the original text meant but to see how meaning changed over time. At first that sounded heretical to my ears, but it was also liberating. I acquired additional ancient languages like Akkadian, Ugaritic and Aramaic, and became engaged in the historical perspective.
What was one of your first striking discoveries as Prof. Sarna’s student?
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