Jon D. Levenson

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Jon Douglas Levenson is an American Hebrew Bible scholar who is the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at the Harvard Divinity School.


Areas of specialization[edit]

Levenson is a scholar of the Bible and of the rabbinic midrash, with an interest in the philosophical and theological issues involved in biblical studies. He studies the relationship between traditional modes of Biblical interpretation and modern historical criticism. He also studies the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.[1]

Levenson's foci include: Theological traditions in ancient Israel (biblical and rabbinic periods); Literary Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible; Midrash; History of Jewish biblical interpretation; Modern Jewish theology; Jewish-Christian relations

Levenson has been called, “the most interesting and incisive biblical exegete among contemporary Jewish thinkers.” He is described as “challenging the idea, part of Greek philosophy and popular now, that resurrection for Jews and the followers of Jesus is simply the survival of an individual's soul in the hereafter.” In Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel, Levenson asserts that in classical Christianity and Judaism,” “resurrection occurs for the whole person — body and soul. For early Christians and some Jews, resurrection meant being given back one's body or possibly God creating a new similar body after death”.[2] He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Review of Books.


"I sat in a Protestant seminary listening to a distinguished continental biblicist lecture on old Testament theology. At the end of his talk, he remarked that in a year of research in Israel, he had been unable to find anyone interested in the subject. Finally he had asked the member of the Bible department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem about this curious situation, and the latter replied…that he thought no-one in Israel…had any interest in the whole exercise…The effort to construct a systematic, harmonious theological statement out of the unsystematic and polydox materials in the Hebrew Bible fits Christianity better than Judaism because systematic theology in general is more prominent and more at home in the church..."

Citing Susan Handelman: "One of the most interesting aspects of Rabbinic thought is its development of a highly sophisticated system of interpretation based on the uncovering and expanding the primary concrete meaning, and yet drawing a variety of logical inferences from the meaning without the abstracting idealizing movement of Western thought... the search for the one great idea that pervades and unifies the Hebrew Bible is unlikely to interest Jews. Instead, Jewish biblical theology is a likely to be, as it has always been, a matter of piecemeal observations appended to the text and subordinate to its particularity…It is not only that Jews have less motivation than Christians to find a unity or centre in their Bible: if they did find one, they would have trouble integrating it with their most traditional modes of textual reasoning. What Christians may perceive as a gain, Jews may perceive as a loss."[3]

Prizes and honors[edit]

  • Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Award in the category of Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible published in 2005 or 2006 (for Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel), awarded August 2007
  • Doctorate in Divinity, honoris causa, from St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland, awarded May 10, 2007
  • National Jewish Book Award (for Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel), 2006, awarded in March 2007
  • Henry R. Luce III Senior Fellowship in Theology, 1999–2000


  • Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (with Kevin J. Madigan). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. xviii + 284.
  • Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. xxii + 274.
  • Esther. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1997. xvi + 142 pp.
  • The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Paperback, 1995. xiv + 257 pp.
  • The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993. Collection of six revised essays. 192 pp.
  • Harper’s Bible Commentary. Associate Editor responsible for Genesis-Esther (according to the Protestant ordering). San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.
  • Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988. xvi + 182 pp. 2nd edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.
  • Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: Winston Seabury, 1985. Paperback, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987. xi + 227 pp.
  • Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith. Edited with Baruch Halpern. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1981. xiv + 446 pp.
  • Theology of the Program of Restoration of Ezekiel 40-48. Harvard Semitic Monograph Series 10. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976. x + 176 pp.
  • The Book of Job in its Time and in the Twentieth Century. LeBaron Russell Briggs Prize Essay in English. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972. 80 pp.
  • A review essay that covers many of these books has been published by Marvin A. Sweeney, “Why Jews Are Interested in Biblical Theology: A Retrospective on the Work of Jon D. Levenson,” Jewish Book Annual 55-56 (1997-99/5758-59): 135-68.


  • Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, The Divinity School, Harvard University, 1988-
  • Affiliate Member, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, 1988-
  • Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School and in the Committee on General Studies in the Humanities, the University of Chicago, 1988
  • Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School and in the Committee on General Studies in the Humanities, the University of Chicago, 1986–88
  • Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School, the University of Chicago, 1982–86
  • Assistant Professor of Religion and Biblical Studies, Wellesley College, 1975–82


  1. ^ HDS - Faculty - Jon D. Levenson
  2. ^ Resurrection Is Often Misunderstood by Christians and Jews - New York Times
  3. ^ "Why Jews are not Interested in Biblical Theology" in The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament and Historical Criticism 1993 Louisville:Westminster Press

External links[edit]