Speaker Bios and Abstracts

Prof. Dr. Uta Heil (Universität Wien)

Uta Heil is Professor for Church History at the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Vienna. After finishing her Dissertation at the University Erlangen on Athanasius of Alexandria and working on the critical edition of Athanasius Works, she has pursued research on ecclesiastical developments during the Migration Period. She was “Heisenberg-Stipendiation” of the German DFG and guest professor at the University in Jena and the University of Tübingen and is since 2015 Professor for Church History at the University of Vienna. She is one of the main editors of the Journal of Ancient Christianity (published by De Gruyter) and has currently a research project on the critical edition of the „Dokumente zum arianischen Streit,“ on the digital critical edition of the Expositiones in Psalmos of Pseudo-Athanasius of Alexandria and on the “The Apocryphal Sunday in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.”

Sabbath or Sunday? Christian Exegesis and Divine Benedictions of a Holy Day

In the early days of the Christian communities, Sunday joined the Sabbath as a new, additional feast day. In some texts, the Sabbath was explicitly rejected as a relevant day of rest for Christians (Epistle of Barnabas; Justin), but other sources indicate that in some communities both days were also solemnly celebrated. Only in later times, from the fourth century onwards, are there indications that Sunday was interpreted as the new Sabbath. Eusebius of Caesarea, in particular, is innovative here. The lecture deals with this new tendency in the history of Christianity: In which contexts and with which arguments was Sunday understood as the “new Sabbath”?

Prof. Dr. Sylvie Anne Goldberg (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Sylvie Anne Goldberg is Professor and head of Jewish Studies at EHESS, Paris. She has recently published: Clepsydra. On the plurality of Time in Judaism (trans. by Benjamin Ivry), Stanford University Press, 2016; Flavius Josèphe, Contre Apion, “Introduction (L’Amère ironie de l’histoire, p.VI-XCII) and notes” to the new bilingual edition Greek/French, Paris: Les Belles-Lettres, 2018. She edited Comment s’écrit l’histoire juive, Paris, Albin-Michel, 2019. Forthcoming: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Transmitting Jewish History In Conversation with Sylvie Anne Goldberg, transl. by Benjamin Ivry, Brandeis University Press, 2021.

A Time Beyond Time

Once upon a time, not so far ago - only a century ago - a popular proverb in Eastern Europe alleged that Jews do not keep the Sabbath, it is the Sabbath that keeps them. This saying was obviously a reaction to the growing abandonment of traditional practices of Judaism on account of endorsing a new way of life. Today, the Jews who are keeping the Sabbath often avow that, in the turmoil of their working life, Shabbat is a gift they would not renounce at any cost. So far, from a day of rest to a day of study, perceptions and conceptualizations of the Sabbath have undergone many changes. This paper is an attempt at analyzing the Jewish conception of a time beyond time – which compares with imitatio dei - through considering a series of ideas about time that have transcended Jewish beliefs over the centuries, such as the shadow of the world to come, the return of the dead to their homes or the supplementary soul.

Prof. Dr. Sarit Kattan Gribetz (Fordham University)

Sarit Kattan Gribetz is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism in the Theology Department at Fordham University, and the Acting Director of Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies.  She is the author of Time and Difference in Rabbinic Judaism (Princeton University Press, 2020), which won a National Jewish Book Award.  She is currently writing her second book, titled Jerusalem: A Feminist History.

Sabbath Tales in Rabbinic Literature

How do rabbinic sources conceptualize Sabbath rest, what stories do they tell about late antique Sabbath practice, and why are such texts and rituals still resonant today?  This talk will explore a number of rabbinic narratives about the Sabbath, contextualizing them in their ancient cultural world and reflecting on why they continue to be told and retold in contemporary contexts.

Dr. Sigurvin Lárus Jónsson (University of Münster)

Sigurvin Lárus Jónsson has a PhD in New Testament from Aarhus University. He is currently employed as a Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany.

Time and History in Luke-Acts: Sabbath as Setting

The concept of time is of seminal importance for the development of early Christianity and Judaism in the first century CE. In the New Testament, Paul’s eschatological perspective means that his letters assume that time is short, and the earliest New Testament Gospel of Mark shares this conviction. This paper will focus on the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, a two-volume narrative that starts with the immaculate conception of Jesus and ends with Paul heading to Rome, thus encompassing the foundational ‘history’ of the early community. Time in Luke is multidimensional, one aspect concerns the Birth of Christian History, to cite Eve-Marie Becker’s monograph on Mark and Luke as historiographers, another aspect involves what Michael Walter has termed Epochengeschicthe, that is the biblical background of the events as they unfold in continuation of the story of Israel, and a third aspect is theological, where eschatological immediacy of Paul and Mark is replaced with an expectation that assumes that the church may have some time before the end-time and thus stands in “Die Mitte der Zeit” to quote Hans Conzelmann’s seminal work on Luke-Acts. My focus will be on time as a narrative device, as it relates to Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative, and especially the role of the Sabbath for the two-part narrative. Sabbath terminology is rare in the New Testament letter’s, but comes to the fore in the gospels and Acts, and is especially prominent in Luke’s narrative. The discussion will be threefold, first a focus on where and how σάββατον occurs in Greek literature, second a discussion about time as a narrative device in connection to Sabbath, and finally the role of the Sabbath in the narrative of Luke-Acts.

Dr. Ottilia Lukács (Pécsi Püspöki Hittudományi Főiskola/ Theological College of Pécs and KU Leuven)

After finishing her BA in Theology and Social Sciences at the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Ottilia Lukács continued her master studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, (Belgium). Biblical studies (especially the Old Testament and Judaism) has been her research interest since the very beginning of her studies. She wrote her first master thesis on the lament psalms with a focus on the experience of divine abandonment. Her second master thesis was about water metaphors in the Book of Jeremiah from the perspective of cognitive linguistic approach. At the end of her master studies, she enrolled in the doctoral program at KU Leuven. Her initial PhD project was the Decalogue, then she narrowed down her research on the Sabbath commandment. She has been especially interested in the literary and redactional development of the Sabbath commandment in the Pentateuch. Her main methodological approach was inner-biblical exegesis, which led her to the Book of Ezekiel. Since then, she has been fascinated and interested in the use and development of the Sabbath as identity marker during the exilic and post-exilic periods. Her first monograph, published a year ago, deals with the inner-biblical development of the Sabbath commandment and the phenomenon of the Sabbath as religious-ethnic identity marker. Recently, she continued her research on the Sabbath in the late Babylonian and Persian period from the perspective of trauma and cultural memory studies. Since 2018 she works as a lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew at the Theological College of Pécs (Hungary) a workplace that offers her the opportunity to do research next to teaching different subject related to Old Testament and Judaism.

Understanding the Sabbath from the perspective of the Cultural Memory

As it transpires from the Sabbath commandments and from the Book of Ezekiel, keeping the Sabbath played a crucial role in the construction of the Judeans’ exilic and post-exilic identity. Therefore, there is no wonder that the origins of the Sabbath have always been a fascinating topic for scholarship. The redactional and literary connections between the Sabbath commandments found in the Pentateuch and the Sabbath references found in the Book of Ezekiel reflect a conscious, creative reworking and actualization of earlier materials that we consider as manifestations of inner-biblical interpretation. Hence, the major concern of the present paper is to discuss briefly the historical, social, and theological surroundings that might have affected the emergence and development of the Sabbath as an identity expression and self-definition of the Israelite community during the so-called exilic period in the 6th century BCE.

Dr. Mark Roosien (Yale Institute of Sacred Music)

Dr. Mark Roosien is currently Lecturer in Liturgical Studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. He received his PhD in Theology with an emphasis in liturgical studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2019. He researches the connections between ritual, ecology, and theology in late antique Christianity.

The Supplication of the Ninevites: A Rite of Famine, Rest, and Redemption in Late Antique Syriac Christianity

During a devastating famine and plague in the sixth century CE, a community of Syriac-speaking Christians in Mesopotamia ceased from work to devote themselves to fasting and prayer in order to summon divine mercy and end the calamity. They performed this ritual in conscious imitation of the Ninevites in the biblical book of Jonah who similarly ceased from work and repented in order to turn aside the divine wrath warned by the prophet. After the plague and famine were over, Syriac Christians instituted this ritual to be performed every year as a three-day liturgical rite called the “Supplication of the Ninevites,” held between the January feast of Epiphany and the beginning of the Lenten fast in March. What did it come to mean after the famine and plague had passed?

I argue that the rite of the Supplication of the Ninevites transformed from its original meaning as a rite of affliction during natural disaster into a Sabbath-like calendrical rite of rest and redemption. Few Syriac Christians observed a weekly Sabbath and, indeed, many writers criticized their Jewish neighbors for doing so. Yet many also believed the Sabbath was symbolically important as a reminder to please God through good works and the establishment of just relations among the community, and to allow humans and animals to periodically rest from work. The Supplication of the Ninevites allowed the community to fulfill the demands of the Sabbath as they understood them, and to annually reinscribe a sense of harmony between land, animals, community and God.

Prof. Dr. Michele Renée Salzman (University of California at Riverside)

Michele Renee Salzman is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at the University of California at Riverside.  Salzman’s research focuses on the religious and social history of Late Antiquity. She is the author of Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (UC Press, 1990); The Making of a Christian Aristocracy (Harvard University Press, 2002); and authored, The First Book of Symmachus’ Letters.  Translation with Michael Roberts; Introduction and Commentary (2012).  She has co-edited numerous volumes. Her forthcoming book, The ‘Falls’ of Rome: Crises, Resilience and Resurgence in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press) focuses on the resilience of successive generations of Roman citizens, and their remarkable ability – despite enduring successive calamities - to reconstitute their city and society to thrive over the last three centuries of the Western Roman Empire.

The Acts of Silvester: History, Legend and Sundays in Rome

The emperor Constantine’s revolutionary law of 321 made the day of the Sun – Sunday – a day of rest. Although we have no reliable fourth-century evidence for Pope Silvester’s influence on this emperor’s fashioning of Sunday as a holiday, we do have an important, later account that gives Silvester a key role in defining Sunday observances - The Acts of Silvester. Scholars tend to overlook this text because of its fabulous narrative about the conversion of Constantine. This paper argues that we can use the late fifth century layer A of the Acts of Silvester, a text that was widely circulated and augmented into the eighth century, to fill out our understanding of attitudes toward and understanding of Sunday practice in late antique Rome.

Prof. Dr. Sacha Stern (University College London)

Sacha Stern (DPhil. Oxon. 1992) is Professor of Jewish Studies at University College London. He has published several books and articles on the Jewish and other calendars and time reckoning in Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, including Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar (Oxford 2001), Time and Process in Ancient Judaism (Oxford 2003), Calendars in Antiquity (Oxford 2012) and The Jewish Calendar Controversy of 921/2 (Leiden 2019). In 2013-18 he was Principal Investigator of an ERC [European Research Council] advanced grant project on ‘Calendars in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: standardization and fixation’; the present paper is an outcome of this project.

The Jewish Sabbath in Antiquity and Middle Ages: Universal, Communal, and Individual

This paper starts from the practical question of how the seven-day week and Sabbath are meant to be reckoned; it leads to broader, ideological considerations about the Sabbath as an individual, communal, and universal timeframe. In the Bible, the law that ‘six days you shall work and on the seventh you shall rest’ could be taken to mean that it is up to the individual to decide when to work his/her six days and rest on the seventh; whereas the public sacrifice on the day of the Sabbath, and punishments directed at desecrators of ‘the’ Sabbath, imply a communal consensus on when Sabbath falls. In historical terms, the absence of an objective reference point for reckoning the week (grounded, for example, in some natural phenomenon) is likely to have opened the way, in early times, for diversity of practice. Some evidence from Ptolemaic Egypt and the early Roman empire suggests indeed that different Jewish communities could observe the Sabbath on different days. By the second century CE, however, the reckoning of the week had become standardized among Jews and pagans. The Christianization of the Roman Empire promoted further the diffusion of a standard week and Sabbath, which increasingly structured social life and time reckoning as a common, universal timeframe. Nevertheless, the Talmud in late Antiquity still considers the possibility of individual Sabbath reckoning; and an individual, relativistic notion of the week and Sabbath is still entertained in some texts as late as the 16th century. At the same time, in contrast, the medieval realization that the Sabbath could not be observed on a global level on the same day without assuming an international date line – a problem first ever noted by a Jewish scholar, Judah ha-Levi, in the 12th century, and left unresolved in Jewish law – gave rise to a universal, cosmic conception of the Sabbath and turned its reckoning from a social convention to a fundamental, reified structure of the created world.

Prof. Dr. Israel J. Yuval (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) 

(Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Professor of Jewish History, Academic Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities)

Israel Yuval is a historian of the Jews in the Middle Ages. He is holding the Teddy Kollek Chair for Cultural Studies of Vienna and Jerusalem at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is teaching at the Department of Jewish History. In 2002 he founded Scholion - Research Center for Jewish Studies and was its head from 2002 till 2010. From 1998-2008 he was the head of Germania Judaica IV (together with Prof. Michael Toch, Jerusalem and Prof. Stefan Rohrbacher, Duisburg). In 2011-12 he was a co-editor of Tarbiz – A Quarterly in Jewish Studies. His book Scholars in Their Time: The Religious Leadership of German Jewry in the Late Middle Ages, 1988 won the Zalman Shazar Prize in Jewish history. His book “Two Nations in Your Womb”. Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Hebrew: Magnes Press 2000, won the Bialik Prize in Jewish studies and literature, 2002. An English translation was published in 2006 by the University of California Press, a German translation by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2007 and a French translation by Albin Michel 2012. The book was the winner of “Le prix des amis de P.A. Bernheim” awarded by the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 2013. In 2016 he was the recipient of Verdienstkreuz am Bande des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

And the Rest is History: Sabbath versus Sunday Industrialization created cultures of leisure

The pursuit of rest is part and parcel of capitalism, and it has become a universal human right. Today we need rest not only from work but also from technology. However, the value of rest is the result of a long historical process, in which Jews and Christians participated in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. The history of rest is restless. It contains all the components of a living culture: competition, strife, acculturation and imitation. The question I would like to address in this lecture is how the idea of rest evolved before it became common knowledge. From the beginning, Christianity set Sunday and not Saturday as the most important day of the week. Christians adopted the pagan criticism against the Jewish physical rest by defining it as “idleness”. However, in the fifth and even more so in the sixth century, the Sunday serenity became more and more justified by the biblical Sabbath model. Parallel to the establishment of Sunday as a day of rest, there were trends to confer Christian content on Saturday. Christianity offered two alternative definitions of the concept of rest on Shabbath: The Eastern Church preferred a contemplative way and replaced rest with study. The Western Church preferred meditation, replacing rest with fasting. Did the introduction of Sunday as an obligatory day of rest became a threat to the uniqueness of the Jewish Sabbath? Did Jews care about those internal Christian controversies? Did they formulate their own attitude toward the meaning of rest on the Sabbath?