jewish and
[ conferences and
Jerusalem and other holy places as foci of multireligious
and ideological confrontation

May 14-17, 2017, Jerusalem, Israel

Holy places play a leading role in many religious traditions. Most important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem is considered a holy city and a religious center that contains numerous sacred places. Occupying a place of pride in the experience of believers, the sacred places commemorate historical events or venerate awe-inspiring features in nature. Although at first it appears that holy places are only significant to the adherents of a specific religion and not to other beliefs, upon closer investigation the matter is more complex. Often a holy place seeks to obscure an earlier veneration of the same spot by a preceding religion. This is true for many Jewish, Christian and Islamic sites located where there had previously been a so-called "pagan" center. Such sites include the Bethesda Pool, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Cave of Elijah in Israel. Likewise, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus was preceded by a Church, which was preceded by the Temple of Jupiter while the Church of Maria sopra Minerva and the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome conceal the Temple to Mithras. There are many other examples. Holy places continue to display a multireligious character despite religious and political efforts to obscure that fact. Examples include Rachel's tomb, the Shrine of John the Baptist in Damascus, the supposed Celtic sources preceding Christian sources of holy water, and the mosque/cathedral of Cordoba. Curiously, despite the antagonism that often exists between two religions, a site's sanctification by one religion seems to attract veneration by another. Apparently, the rejection of holy places by another religion does not always lead to physical distance.

On a theological level, the matter is also complicated. Although Protestantism claims to have branded all veneration of holy places as idolatrous, nevertheless there is a constant stream of religious Christian Protestant tourists to Israel and to Jerusalem. Despite the opposition to holy places by Jewish thinkers such as Abraham Joshua Heschel (the Sabbath is the Jewish "palace in time"), there is a deeply rooted religious fervor among certain Jewish groups when it comes to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or other sacred places, such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

In a postmodern perspective, the huge increase in pilgrimages (Santiago de Compostela), the creation of sacred spots by a so-called "disaster ritual," the predilection for supposedly pre-Christian holy places (Stonehenge), and the creation of secular/national sites of pilgrimage, all demonstrate that the issue of holy places cannot be confined to traditional religions.

In our upcoming conference we plan to explore the relationship between holy places and their significance for various identities. The conference will be held in the Schechter institute in Jerusalem, 14.5 - 17.5.2018.

We invite scholars from various disciplines to submit proposals of 400-600 words describing casus and methodology, before October 1, 2017 to one of the members of the organizing committee. Acceptance, depending on the suitability within the program, will be decided before November 1.

This conference is part of an ongoing scholarly exchange between the academic institutions mentioned above. The proceedings of the conferences are published in the Jewish and Christian Perspectives series (

Prof. Eyal Regev (Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar- Ilan University, Israel),
Dr. Vered Tohar (Department of Literature of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University),
Dr. Tamar Kadari (Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Israel),
Prof. Marcel Poorthuis (University of Tilburg, the Netherlands),
Prof. Alberdina Houtman (Protestant Theological University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands),

Stories and Traditions in Transformation
A neglected domain of interaction between religions

May 31 June 3, 2015
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Bar-Ilan University: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Israel
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
Tilburg University, School of Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Protestant Theological University, Kampen, the Netherland

Stories constitute an important vehicle for the interaction between cultures and religions. Therefore they deserve to be treated as prime examples of mutual interaction and creative hermeneutics and as an essential tool for upholding religious identity. In this conference a group of Israeli and Dutch scholars from different disciplines will discuss the migration and adaptation of stories and traditions from methodological, historical, and theological

Alberdina Houtman (PThU)
Marcel Poorthuis (FKT)
Tamar Kadari (Schechter)

The Actuality of Sacrifice

Januari 9-12, 2011, Jerusalem / Ramat-Gan, Israel

Bar-Ilan University: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Israel
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
Tilburg University, School of Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Protestant Theological University, Kampen, the Netherlands

Numerous religious traditions are familiar with sacrifice as a religious ritual act. However, both Judaism and Christianity attest to a process of evolution or transformation. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, normative Judaism came to regard prayer as a kind of substitute. Both in its structure and in its content, Jewish liturgy is highly dependent upon and derivative from the sacrificial cult of the Temple. Different sects and movements within Judaism and on the periphery, such as the Dead Sea Sect, the Samaritans, and the Gnostics, can to a large extent be defined by their approach to sacrifice and by their ability to transform it. The significance of sacrifice did not end for Judaism in the first century CE, but this significance was internalized and expressed in many different ways: e.g. prayer, charity, Torah study. Later philosophical reflections and mystical approaches formulated quite different and distinct layers of sacrifice. Whereas Maimonides, for example, emphasized the didactic function of the sacrifice as a concession to the impaired spiritual level of the Jewish people just departed from Egypt, the mystical traditions seem to be inclined to discover the ultimate surrender of man to God in sacrifice. In addition to prayer, martyrdom might be considered as another significant transformation of sacrifice.

All these of transformations might provoke inquiry into the essence of the ritual of sacrifice itself. During the Enlightenment, the approach of Maimonides was radicalized into the question of whether modern Judaism could still long for a re-establishment of the sacrificial cult as one of the future manifestations of the Messianic era, as it were. This question received a new religious and political relevance after the establishment of the State of Israel and during the course of time in the ensuing debates over sovereignty of the Temple Mount, on which two Islamic buildings feature.

Christianity distanced itself from the Temple in the course of the first century CE and following - but to what extent remains an open question - and Christianity found itself faced with the same task described above of transforming sacrifice into other meaningful religious acts. The Eucharist became the central ritual in remembrance of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, in which the sacrificial element became central later on, although Rome and the Reformation differed precisely over the question of the symbolism of sacrifice connected to the Eucharist: is the meal and the community central or is it the sacrifice? Thomas Aquinas, for example, derived much from Maimonides in order to explain that the central sacrificial cult of the Bible did not vanish in Christianity but was integrated into the Eucharist. 

There is a long debate over the essence of sacrifice: is it a 'do ut des', (I give in order that God gives) or is it rather a surrender to God of what one has received from God? These and numerous other views and explanations transcended the boundaries of Biblical religions and became central in the thought of ethnologists like Durkheim and Mauss. However, even in these cases, the denominational background of Protestantism resulted in a depreciating attitude to sacrifice as a mere 'human achievement'.

'Biblical' religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, connected sacrifice to Biblical stories, to calendar and community. Other religions know sacrifice as an individual daily act as well. In Hinduism sacrifice is strongly connected to daily life and to the dealings with the gods.

Modernity should not be understood as a gradual relapse into sacrifice, as part of a wholesale secularization. On the contrary, the relevance of sacrifice appears to be far greater than just a ritual in traditional religions. Indeed it has received renewed interest from anthropologists, who point to modern phenomena such as collective mourning, lighting of candles, post-modern pilgrimage and rituals in sport to demonstrate the central relevance of rituals today. Anthropologists, psychologists and philosophers point to the central relevance of the notion of the ritual of sacrifice in particular to understand violence, patriotic heroism, feminism, charity and even terrorism

In modern philosophy sacrifice has received ample attention in the works of Levinas, Girard, Bataille and Agamben. In their analyses sacrifice appears as strongly connected to violence and at the same time as a means to divert violence from the community. The ritual of the scapegoat itself evolved from a traditional ritual in the book of Leviticus to a complex psychological mechanism inviting philosophical reflection.
Modern debates on sacrifice might be classified along concern three major issues:
   The relationship between sacrifice and autonomy
   The relationship between sacrifice and violence
   The relationship between sacrifice and the sense of community

A joint reflection on sacrifice from Jewish and Christian perspectives including both tradition perspectives and modern insights might yield new and profound understanding of some the most sensitive topics of our time.

Prof. dr. David Golinkin, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
Prof. dr. Dineke Houtman, Protestant Theological University, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. Marcel Poorthuis, Catholic Theological Faculty, University of Tilburg
Prof. dr. Joshua Schwartz, Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies,
       Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Freek van der Steen, MA, Series editor on behalf of BRILL

Prof. Dr. Joshua Schwartz
Bar-Ilan University: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

Prof. Dr. Marcel Poorthuis
Tilburg University: Faculty of Catholic Theology, Utrecht
Section: Relation Judaism Christianity (RJC)

Prof. Dr. Yossi Turner
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies

Prof. Dr. Dineke Houtman
Protestant Theological University of Kampen

EABS Meeting 2008

The use of the Bible for group demarcation
in the second temple period and late antiquity

3 - 7 August, University of Lisbon, Portugal
(and in Summer 2009, Hull, UK)

In the next two EABS annual meetings of 2008 and 2009, the Early Christianity, and the Early Judaism and Rabbinics programs will jointly explore ways in which ancient Jews and Christians interpreted the Bible for constructing a group identity or when delineating the boundaries between themselves and others.

Various biblical figures, themes, narratives and interpretative motifs were used to denote self perception, to mark the other as other and to create the group identity against other contemporary tendencies. Several cultural practices took part in this process, such as methods of interpretation of the biblical text, application of the Bible to the liturgy and ritual, as well as applying the content of biblical events to the current time.

All these phenomena will be the object of our study in the next two yearly meetings of the EABS.
We would like to approach the study of such interpretative strategies as was applied to the different sub groups and sub cultures in late antiquity that defined their identity by reference to the Bible, groups as Judaism and Christianity, as well as other groups and streams of thought.

Papers may discuss themes such as the importance of genealogical origin (i.e. Davidic or priestly decent) for group demarcation; the identity function of eschatological model narrated by the sub-group; the use of biblical archetypes for defining the exemplar of a group member; the relation between hermeneutical strategies (i.e. allegory, fables, or peshers) and group identity; the assigning of biblical categories to other populations (as Hellenistic or pagan), interpretative motifs prevailing among particular subgroups and so on.

Please send suggested proposals, before January 13, 2008

Moshe Lavee                                         Ronit Nikolsky
The University of Haifa                        Groningen University   

The Exegetical Encounter
between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity
24- 27 June 2007 -  University of Cambridge, UK

This international congress focuses on examining the relationship between rabbinic and patristic biblical commentators and aims to identify and analyse evidence of potential encounters between the two traditions in their interpretation of Scripture. This should illuminate the possibility not only of the influence of rabbinic traditions on patristic ideas, but also the possibility of Christian influence on Jewish exegesis.

Scholars participating in the conference:  Philip Alexander, Sebastian Brock, Dmitri Bumaznov, Paula Fredriksen, Judith Frishman, Florentino Garcia Martinez, Emmanouela Grypeou, Robert Hayward, Marc Hirshman, Edward Kessler, Gerard Luttikhuizen,  Ed Noort, Hanneke Reuling, Stefan Reif, Alison Salvesen, Peter Schaefer, Helen Spurling, Guenter Stemberger, Michael Stone, Guy Stroumsa, Burton Visotzky.

Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations

Dr. Emmanouela Grypeou                       Dr. Helen Spurling
faculty homepage                   Internet: faculty homepage
E-mail:                      E-mail:            

Isolation, Independence, Syncretism, Dialogue
Models of Interaction between Judaism and Christianity  in Past and Present

21-24 January 2007, Ramat Gan and Jerusalem

Bar-Ilan University: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
Tilburg University: Faculty of Catholic Theology, Utrecht

Explanation of Topic

Jewish-Christian dialogue has in some sense existed since the inception of Christianity. Recent historical research has shown that much in both Judaism and Christianity, particularly in the Middle Ages, is really but a result of the interaction between them. In the past, historians have tended to emphasize the great debt of Christianity to Judaism. Other scholarship has shown that the development of Judaism, particularly in the modern period, is unthinkable without its deep involvement with its Christian surroundings. This acknowledgement of interreligious dialogue, of course, became even more pronounced as the concept of dialogue between religions became popular in the period following World War II.  Indeed, Jewish-Christian dialogue has become in the last half-century an institution of Western civilization. In light of this development, we should like to reconsider the ways in which the relationship between  Judaism and Christianity have been considered.

The primary question to be considered at the conference - to borrow a phrase from Abraham Joshua Heshel - is:
    Are religions destined to remain "an island" when it comes to religious
That is to say, do we have to consider the character of religions primarily in terms of their own self-understanding, and as such to give focus to qualities deemed to be unique and distinguishing; or should we rather view the religious characters of the different religions through the lens of commonality, that is to say, through an emphasis on those characteristics of the various religions comprising a shared universe? 
The terms isolation, independence, syncretism and dialogue may be used to suggest possible models for the formulation of relations between Judaism and Christianity. In the past, religious traditions tended to view their development as a coherent process that can be understood, so to speak, from within. While interaction with other groups was always recognized as a matter of fact, there has also always been much debate as to how important interreligious interaction was to each religion as a matter of principle. There was, and is even today, much disagreement as to the question if interreligious dialogue is even desirable.

Methodological questions
In the framework of the conference we would, therefore, like to emphasise two types of discourse. The first is descriptive. We are interested in the presentation of models, metaphors and concepts that underlie the interaction between Judaism and Christianity (past and present). Furthermore we are interested in a clarification of the problems involved in such interactivity, and an explication of the means through which these have been, or may still yet be dealt with. For example, how does the historical interaction between Judaism and Christianity cause conflict with the presuppositions of each? This direction of discourse needs to be developed in conjunction with a wide variety of disciplines, such as: history, archaeology, classics, hermeneutics, sociology, philosophy and theology.
The second line of discourse refers rather to the ramifications of the methodologies used by the different disciplines in the 'language' of discourse itself. Here we are interested in the ways in which various fields of scholarship have either reflected the interactive relationship obtaining between Judaism and Christianity in the past, or contributed to the furtherance of this relationship in the past and present.

How should the relationship between Judaism and Christianity be best described? Are they two distinct entities that at times, nonetheless come into contact with each other? Are they but part of a single spiritual universe, wherein each echoes in its own way the relation between Rabbinical Judaism and early Christianity? How is the relationship reflected in classical and contemporary texts? What are the voices within each of the religions that compel a more universalistic approach, based on commonality, and what are the voices that compel more of a particularistic and separationist position?  To what extent did such metaphors describing the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as that between mother and daughter, two brothers, or father and son follow from the sources or self-reflection of each religion? To what extent are they the product of objective historical realities derived from the given interaction of Judaism and its Christian surroundings through the course of history? What role do self-conceptions of Judaism and Christianity, or their metaphors, play in contemporary  social and political issues concerning such matters as American and European attitudes to the Moslem world and the politics of Arab Israeli relations? Finally, in light of the historical events of the 20th and early 21st centuries, involving not only Judaism and Christianity, but Jews and Christians as well, should earlier self-conceptions and metaphors be reconsidered and possibly altered? 
These are but some of the questions that ought to be discussed at the conference.

Prof. Dr. Joshua Schwartz
Bar-Ilan University: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

Dr. Marcel Poorthuis
Tilburg University: Faculty of Catholic Theology, Utrecht
Section: Relation Judaism Christianity (RJC)

Dr. Yossi Turner
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies

The Development of the Liturgies in Judaism and Christianity
19- 21 November 2005, Aachen, Germany

A symposium dedicated to the scholarly heritage
of Jacob J. Petuchowski

Whoever studies the development of Jewish and Christian liturgies recognizes similar phenomena at many different levels of questions and types of data. The present situation of international research does not provide a general paradigm that should be based on a broad consensus how to describe, classify, and evaluate such 'parallels'. This open situation encourages scholars to ask new questions and to try to find new answers. The planned volume in the Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series will unite contributions from each scholar's own field of specialized research.

In November 2005, Albert Gerhards, Hans-Hermann Henrix, and Clemens Leonhard convened a symposium at the Episcopal Academy of Aachen in Germany (funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the GEFFRUB, and the Catholic Church of the diocese of Aachen) to this topic that brought together scholars with various interests in Jewish and Christian liturgies. The prospective collection of articles will comprise the papers that were read and discussed in this group in order to share the results of its deliberations with a broader audience.

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