PSCO Presentation: 22 April, 2010

“Revelation after the Rabbis: Sefer Zerubbabel and Sefer Eliyyahu”

Martha Himmelfarb (Princeton University)


Abstract: Sefer Zerubbabel and Sefer Eliyyahu, often described as medieval Hebrew apocalypses, were composed in the first part of the seventh century. They thus faced the challenge of offering their revelations to a world that was not only post-biblical but also post-talmudic. I will discuss the implications of this situation for the content of their revelations and the quite different ways they present them, suggesting that Sefer Eliyyahu shows a much greater affinity for rabbinic values and rabbinic literary style than Sefer Zerubbabel and considering the implications of Sefer Zerubbabel’s distance from rabbinic culture.


Martha Himmelfarb earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a tenured professor at Princeton University.

Meeting and Dining

This meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 22 April, 7:00–9:00 pm in the second floor Lounge of Logan Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. 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 Readings

Please read the texts if possible. Probably the most convenient place to get the translations of the two works is John Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader (2005). I translated Sefer Zerubbabel in Rabbinic Fantasies, ed. David Stern and Mark Jay Mirsky (1990). The originals of both works await real editions. The most convenient source for the Hebrew of both works is probably Yehudah Even-Shmuel, Midreshei Ge'ulah, but be warned that these are "improved" version. Reeves refers you to other editions of the two works.