PSCO Presentation: 22 October, 2009

“Trends and Developments in Scribal Tradition from the 7th–4th centuries BCE”

Mark Leuchter (Temple University)


Ancient Israel’s scribal tradition underwent dramatic changes during the turbulent time spanning the late pre-exilic to late Persian periods, with new concepts of scribal responsibility, the purpose and function of texts, methods of exegesis and hermeneutical strategies emerging in response to theological crises and social foment.  With ever-increasing uncertainty regarding traditional religious, ritual, mythic and social institutions, the role of the scribe transcended previous categories and strictures and both competed with and eclipsed older offices and positions of authority.  An overview of the methodological innovations, polemical tactics and ideological predilections among different scribal circles from these centuries will elucidate a particular and mounting intellectual tradition where sacred text emerged as the pre-eminent and defining feature of community and authority among the Jewish literati of the Hellenistic period.


Mark Leuchter directs the Jewish Studies program at Temple University. His books include Josiah’s Reform and Jeremiah’s Scroll (2006), The Polemics of Exile in Jeremiah 26–45 (2008), and a co-edited volume of essays on the formation of the book of Kings, forthcoming with Fortress Press. His current research focuses on hermeneutical methods of Israelite scribal groups in the exilic and Persian periods and the development of polemical traditions between royal and rural circles in the period of the Israelite monarchy.

Meeting and Dining

All are welcome! Those wishing to dine together before the seminar will meet at 6:00 pm in the Cohen Hall Second-Floor Lounge to go next door to the food court in Houston Hall.

Suggested Reading

David M. Carr, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature (Oxford, 2005)

Karel van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Harvard Univ. Press, 2007)

Mark Leuchter, “The Manumission Laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy: The Jeremiah Connection”, JBL 127 (2008) 635-653

Frank H. Polak, “Style is More than the Person: Sociolinguistic, Literary Culture, and the Distinction between Oral and Written Narrative”, in Ian M. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 2003) 38-103.

Bernard M. Levinson, Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel (Cambridge, 2008)

PDF copies of these articles are available on request.