A.J. Berkovitz Publishes Award-Winning A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity

AJ Berkovitz

A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity by A.J. Berkovitz

HUC-JIR is excited to announce that the University of Pennsylvania Press will release Assistant Professor A.J. Berkovitz’s award-winning first book A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity on June 20. The book received the Jordan Schnitzer First Book Publication Award from the Association for Jewish Studies.

A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity asks a simple set of questions: Where did late ancient Jews encounter the Psalms? How did they engage with the work? And what meanings did they produce? Professor Berkovitz answers these queries by reconstructing and contextualizing a diverse set of religious practices performed with and on the Psalms, such as handling a physical copy, reading from it, interpreting it exegetically, singing it as liturgy, invoking it as magic, and reciting it as an act of piety. This book will appeal to those interested in the early history of the Psalms, the interplay between religion and technology, the history of reading in the ancient world, and the story of how Jews lived in sacred literature.

World-renowned Professor Marc Z. Brettler of Duke University praised the book as “An erudite and wide-ranging, but easy to read, exploration of the variety of uses of Psalms in Late Antiquity, highlighting their use in scrolls, art, inscriptions, and amulets—and more.”

Professor Berkovitz says about his book, “I wrote this book to understand ancient religion as something that humans did, something that ran woof and warp through the daily lives of those who lived in the distant past. The story of the book of Psalms in Late Antiquity—how it was held, read, and used in liturgy, magic, and piety—illustrates a set of simple facts: History is alive. Religion is vital. And the quotidian is the sublime.”

A Life of Psalms in Jewish Late Antiquity is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, copyright 2023. You may purchase a copy through the publisher, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever one gets their books.