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Mark of Contradictions: The Creation of Judah’s History and the Case of Samson
In biblical texts, we find preserved the “mark of contradictions, fragmentations, and adjunctions,” as intellectual historian Michel de Certeau once wrote (The Writing of History 1988: 313). This talk will explore the mark of contradictions in what may seem a peripheral set of texts within the broader biblical narrative, the Samson stories of Judges 13-16. Buried in the book of Judges, these quirky stories have consistently baffled scholars: where do they come from, why were they preserved, and what role do they serve? In the talk, Mahri Leonard-Fleckman will trace shifting portrayals of Samson through different biblical witnesses and rewritings through the first century C.E. to demonstrate how Samson preserves an important mark of contradictions as he is drawn into the fabric of Judah’s history. In doing so, her broader aim is to probe the relationship between fluidity and fixity in scribal production, history writing, and tradition itself. Moderated by William Schniedewind (UCLA).
Mahri Leonard-Fleckman is an assistant professor of Hebrew Bible in the Religious Studies Department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She specializes in Iron Age history and the composition history of the Hebrew Bible, and is the author of The House of David: Between Political Formation and Literary Revision (Fortress Press, 2016) and co-author of The Book of Ruth in the Wisdom Commentary Series (Liturgical Press, 2017). Her current book project, provisionally titled Scribal Representations and Social Landscapes of the Iron Age Shephelah, focuses on scribal representations of the “Other” in ancient Israel in relation to broader questions of identity in the Iron Age Levant, and is under contract with Oxford University Press. Leonard-Fleckman has published numerous scholarly and public-facing books and articles, is currently the Catholic Biblical Quarterly Book Review Editor for the Old Testament and Qumran, and is active on numerous other editorial boards and professional committees.
Co-sponsored with the lead sponsor UCLA Alan D Leve Center for Jewish Studies as part of their Bible and the Ancient Near East series, in addition to and the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures