Alan F. Segal

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Alan F. Segal (1945 – February 13, 2011) was a professor of religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College.[1]

Segal was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He attended Amherst College (B.A., 1967), Brandeis University (M.A., 1969), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Bachelor of Hebrew Letters, 1971), and Yale University (M.A., 1971; M.Phil., 1973; and Ph.D., 1975).[1]

Segal was an expert especially in the history and religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity of the Roman period, and on the Semitic languages in use in Israel in that period. His scholarly reputation commenced with his landmark book, Two Powers in Heaven (1977), in which he explored early references in rabbinic texts that he proposed were directed against beliefs of Jewish Christians and gnostics. His 1986 book, Rebecca's Children, was a sensitive study showing that rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity were sibling developments from the parent biblical tradition. His book, Paul the Convert (1990) was Editor's Choice and main selection of the History Book Club's summer 1990 list, and a selection of the Book of the Month Club. His last book, Life After Death (2004) was a massive study of beliefs spanning from ancient near-eastern civilizations to the present and across various religious traditions. It was a selection of the History Book Club, the Book of the Month Club, and the Behaviorial Science Book Club. It also featured on the Leonard Lopate Show, Talk of the Nation, and was the cover story of the Globe and Mail Book Review Supplement (Toronto). In addition, he wrote numbers articles and chapters in scholarly books.

He gave conference presentations and lectures internationally. He was a founding member of the Society of Biblical Literature program unit on Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism, and the SBL program unit on Divine Mediators in Antiquity. In 1988, he was the first Jewish member of the Society for New Testament Studies to address the society. He was elected a member of the American Society for the Study of Religion and the first American living outside Canada to be elected President of the Canadian Society for Biblical Studies.

Segal was a frequent media commentator on St. Paul[2][3] and other issues to deal with early Christianity and Judaism.[4][5][6][7][8] Segal, who wrote on Christian and Jewish beliefs in an afterlife, explained to reporters that belief in an existence beyond death persists among Americans no matter how little they observe their religion.[9]

During September 2007, Segal became part of the controversial tenure battle concerning Barnard anthropology professor Nadia Abu El Haj. Segal, who was opposed to Abu El Haj's tenure bid, told The New York Times that "there is every reason in the world to want her to have tenure, and only one reason against it — her work, I believe it is not good enough."[10] Segal wrote a critique of Abu El Haj's book Facts on the Ground for the Columbia Daily Spectator, in which he said that the reasons for which he opposed tenure for Abu El Haj were professional, not personal.[11]

Selected bibliography[edit]

References[edit]