Saul Olyan Samuel Ungerleider, Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies, Professor of Religious Studies

Saul M. Olyan is Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. He is author of Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011); Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (Cambridge University Press, 2008); Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions (Oxford University Press, 2004); Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult (Princeton University Press, 2000); "A Thousand Thousands Served Him": Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism (J.C.B. Mohr/Paul Siebeck, 1993); and Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel (Scholars Press, 1988). He is editor or co-editor of a number of volumes, including Social Theory and the Study of Israelite Religion (SBL, 2012) and Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (Blackwell, 2008, with John Bodel), and the author of various journal articles, essays and reviews.

Recent articles include "Jehoiakim's Dehumanizing Interment as a Ritual Act of Reclassification," Journal of Biblical Literature 133 (2014):271-79; "The Etymology of Hebrew and Aramaic ykl 'to be able,'" Journal of Semitic Studies 58 (2013):13-19 (with John Huehnergard); "Is Isaiah 40-55 Really Monotheistic?" Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 12 (2012):190-201; "A Suggestion Regarding the Derivation of the Hebrew Noun mērēa'," Journal of Semitic Studies 56 (2011): 217-219; "Stigmatizing Associations: The Alien, Things Alien, and Practices Associated with Aliens in Biblical Classification Schemas" in The Foreigner and the Law: Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (ed. R. Achenbach et al.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011),17-28; "What Do We Really Know about Women's Rites in the Israelite Family Context?" Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 10 (2010) 55-67; "Unnoticed Resonances of Tomb Opening and Transportation of the Remains of the Dead in Ezekiel 37:12-14," Journal of Biblical Literature 128 (2009) 491-501; and "The Ascription of Physical Disability as a Stigmatizing Strategy in Biblical Iconic Polemics," Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009) article 14:1-15.

Coordinating editor, Brown Judaic Studies, 2001-; member, editorial board, Anchor Yale Bible series, 2008-; member, editorial board, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 2007-; member, advisory board, Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ancient History, 2009-13; editor (Hebrew Bible), Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series, 1999-2002; member, Society of Biblical Literature Council, 1999-2002; member, editorial board, Journal of Biblical Literature, 1993-98; member, editorial board, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 1996-2000.

Brown Affiliations

scholarly work

“‘Ihr sollt mir heilige Menschen sein’: Der wahrscheinliche Einfluss von Ex 22,30 auf spätere Heiligkeitsideologien,” forthcoming in Wege der Freiheit, ed. Jakob Wöhrle et al. Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 2014.

“Pollution, profanation et l’étranger dans les textes bibliques du sixième siècle avant notre ère,” forthcoming in Tabous et transgression, ed. T. Römer et al. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis. Fribourg: Akademic Press, 2014.

Household Religion: Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Cultural Studies, ed. Rainer Albertz, Beth Alpert Nakhai, Saul M. Olyan and Ruediger Schmitt. Winona Lake, IN.: Eisenbrauns, 2014.

“The Roles of Kin and Fictive Kin in Biblical Representations of Death Ritual,” in Household Religion: Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Cultural Studies, ed. Rainer Albertz et al. Winona Lake, IN.: Eisenbrauns, 2014.

“Theorizing Circumstantially-Dependent Rites In and Out of War Contexts,” in The One Who Sows Bountifully: Essays in Honor of Stanley K. Stowers, ed. C. Johnston-Hodge et al., 69-76. Brown Judaic Studies. Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2013. Reprinted in Warfare, Ritual and Symbol in Biblical and Modern Contexts, ed. B. Kelle et al., 15-24. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014.

“Jehoiakim’s Dehumanizing Interment as a Ritual Act of Reclassification,” Journal of Biblical Literature 133 (2014) 271-79.

“The Etymology of Hebrew and Aramaic ykl ‘to be able,’” Journal of Semitic Studies 58 (2013) 13-19 (Co-written with John Huehnergard)

“Is Isaiah 40-55 Really Monotheistic?” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 12 (2012) 190-201.

Social Theory and the Study of Israelite Religion: Essays in Retrospect and Prospect. Resources for Biblical Study 71. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

“Introduction,” in Social Theory and the Study of Israelite Religion: Essays in Retrospect and Prospect, ed. Saul M. Olyan, 1-6. Resources for Biblical Study 71. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

“Theorizing Violence in Biblical Ritual Contexts: The Case of Mourning Rites,” in Social Theory and the Study of Israelite Religion: Essays in Retrospect and Prospect, ed. Saul M. Olyan, 169-80. Resources for Biblical Study 71. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

“Sie sollen nicht in die Gemeinde des Herrn kommen”: Aspekte gesellschaftlicher Inklusion un Exklusion in Deut 23, 4-9 und seine frühen Auslegungen,” in Saul M. Olyan, Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible, 173-85. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.

“Occasionally Beyond Gender: The Rhetoric of Familial Nurture in Discourses of West Asian Kings and their Agents,” in Saul M. Olyan, Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible, 101-13. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.

 Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.

“An ‘Eternal’ Covenant with Circumcision as its Sign: How Useful a Criterion for Dating and Source Analysis?,” in The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research, ed. T. B. Dozeman et al., 347-58. Forschungen zum alten Testament 78. Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2011.

"Stigmatizing Associations: The Alien, Things Alien, and Practices Associated with Aliens in Biblical Classification Schemas" 17-28 in The Foreigner and the Law: Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (ed. R. Achenbach et al.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011).

"A Suggestion Regarding the Derivation of the Hebrew Noun mērēa'," Journal of Semitic Studies 56 (2011): 217-219.

“Sacrifices and Offerings,” in The Dictionary of Early Judaism, ed. John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

"What Do We Really Know about Women's Rites in the Israelite Family Context?" Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 10 (2010) 55-67.

"Equality and Inequality in the Socio-Political Visions of the Pentateuch's Sources: A Response to Joshua A. Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought (Oxford University Press, 2008)," Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 10 (2010), article 9: 34-40.

"The Ascription of Physical Disability as a Stigmatizing Strategy in Biblical Iconic Polemics," Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009) article 14:1-15.

"Unnoticed Resonances of Tomb Opening and Transportation of the Remains of theDead in Ezekiel 37:12-14," Journal of Biblical Literature 128 (2009) 491-501.

Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008; co-edited with John Bodel)

"Beyond Purity and Danger: Mary Douglas and Biblical Studies," Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 8 (2008) article 7:1-4 (co-authored with Ronald Hendel).

"Mary Douglas's Holiness/Wholeness Paradigm: Its Potential for Insight and its Limitations," Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 8 (2008) article 10:1-9.

"The Status of Covenant During the Exile," in Berührungspunkte: Studien zur Sozial- und Religionsgeschichte Israels und seiner Umwelt, ed. Ingo Kottsieper, Rüdiger Schmitt and Jakob Wöhrle, 333-44. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 350. Münster: Ugaritverlag, 2008.

"Comparative Perspectives," in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity: Contextual and Comparative Perspectives, ed. John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan, 276-82. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. (Co-written with John Bodel.)

"Introduction," in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity: Contextual and Comparative Perspectives, ed. John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan, 1-4. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. (Co-written with John Bodel.)

"Family Religion in Israel and the Wider Levant of the First Millennium BCE," in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity: Contextual and Comparative Perspectives, ed. John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan, 113-26. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

"'Surpassing the Love of Women': Another Look at 2 Sam 1:26 and the Relationship of David and Jonathan," in Authorizing Marriage? Canon, Tradition and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions (ed. Mark D. Jordan; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006)7-16, 165-70.

"Was the 'King of Babylon' Buried Before His Corpse Was Exposed? Some Thoughts on Isa 14:19," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 118 (2006) 423-26.

"The Search for the Elusive Self in Texts of the Hebrew Bible," in Religion and the Self in Antiquity (ed. David Brakke et al.; Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 2005) 40-50.

"Some Neglected Aspects of Israelite Interment Ideology," Journal of Biblical Literature 124 (2005) 601-16.

"Exod 31:12-17: the Sabbath According to H, or the Sabbath According to P and H?" Journal of Biblical Literature 124 (2005) 201-209.

Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

"Sin, Pollution and Purity: Syria-Canaan," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnston et al.; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2004) 501-502.

"Sacred Times and Spaces," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnston et al.; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2004) 256-59.

"Rites of Passage: Syria-Canaan," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnston et al.; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2004) 441-42.

"Religious Personnel," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnston et al.; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2004) 296-98.

"Purity Ideology in Ezra-Nehemiah as a Tool to Reconstitute the Community," Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Periods 35 (2004) 1-16.

Review of S. Greenberg, Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004, in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 23 (2005) 195-96.

"Sacrifices, Offerings and Votives," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnston et al.; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2004) 333-36.

"'We are Utterly Cut Off': Some Possible Nuances of nigzarnu lanu in Ezek 37:11," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 65 (2003) 43-51.

"The Exegetical Dimensions of Restrictions on the Blind and the Lame in Texts from Qumran," Dead Sea Discoveries 8 (2001) 38-50.

Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

"A Wise and Discerning Mind": Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long. Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2000. (Co-edited with Robert Culley.)

"The Biblical Prohibition of the Mourning Rites of Shaving and Laceration: Several Proposals," in "A Wise and Discerning Mind": Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long, ed. Saul M. Olyan and Robert C. Culley, 181-89. Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2000.

Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in American Religious Discourse. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. (Co-edited with Martha C. Nussbaum.)

"What Do Shaving Rites Accomplish and What Do They Signal in Biblical Ritual Contexts?" Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998) 611-22.

"Introduction," in Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in American Religious Discourse, ed. S. M. Olyan and M. C. Nussbaum, xiii-xix. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. (Co-written with Martha C. Nussbaum.)

"'To Uproot and to Pull Down, to Build and to Plant': Jer 1:10 and its Earliest Interpreters," in Hesed ve-Emet: Studies in Honor of Ernest S. Frerichs, ed. J.Magness and S. Gittin, 63-72. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998.

"'Anyone Blind or Lame Shall Not Enter the House': On the Interpretation of 2 Samuel 5:8b,"Catholic Biblical Quarterly 60 (1998) 218-27.

"Contemporary Jewish Perspectives on Homosexuality," in Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in American Religious Discourse, ed. S. M. Olyan and M. C. Nussbaum, 5-10. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Review of S. Niditch, Ancient Israelite Religion. New York: Oxford University, 1997, in The Journal of Religion 78 (1998) 479-80.

"Cult," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, ed. E. M. Meyers, 2:79-86. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

"Honor, Shame and Covenant Relations in Ancient Israel and Its Environment," Journal of Biblical Literature 115 (1996) 201-218.

"Why an Altar of Unfinished Stones? Some Thoughts on Ex 20,25 and Dtn 27,5-6," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 108 (1996) 161-171.

"4Qpap paraKings et al.," in Qumran Cave 4 (VIII). Parabiblical Texts Part I, 363-416 and plates XXXVIII-XLI. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XIII. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995. Editio princeps of a fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll.

"'And with a Male You Shall Not Lie the Lying Down of a Woman': On the Meaning and Significance of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13," Journal of the History of Sexuality 5 (1994) 179-206. (Reprinted in Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology, ed. G. D. Comstock and S. E. Henking, 398-414, 513-24. New York: Continuum, 1997.)

Qumran Cave 4.VIII. Parabiblical Texts, Part I. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XIII. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1994. (Co-edited with H. Attridge, T. Elgvin, J. Milik, J. Strugnell, E. Tov, J. Vanderkam, S. White.)

Review of S. Niditch,War in the Hebrew Bible. New York: Oxford University, 1993, in the Association for Jewish Studies Review 20 (1995) 395-96.

"A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism." Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 36. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr/Paul Siebeck, 1993.

"'In the Sight of Her Lovers': On the Interpretation of nablût in Hos 2:12," Biblische Zeitschrift 36 (1992) 255-61.

"The Oaths of Amos 8:14," in Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel, ed. G.A. Anderson and S.M. Olyan, 121-49. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplements 125. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

"The Israelites Debate their Options at the Sea of Reeds: LAB 10:3, its Parallels, and Pseudo-Philo's Ideology and Background," Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (1991) 75-91.

"Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplements 125. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991. (Co-edited with Gary A. Anderson.)

"Some Observations Concerning the Identity of the Queen of Heaven," Ugarit Forschungen 19 (1988) 161-74.

"Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel." Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series 34. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988.

"The Cultic Confessions of Jer 2,27a," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 99 (1987) 254-59.

"Ben Sira's Relationship to the Priesthood," Harvard Theological Review 80 (1987) 261-86.

Review of J.L. Ska, Le passage de la mer. AB 109. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1986, in Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988) 509-10.

Review of N. Lohfink, ed. Das Deuteronomium. Entstehung, Gestalt und Botschaft. Leuven: Leuven University, 1985, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49 (1987) 686-87.

Review of G. Heider, The Cult of Molek. A Reassessment. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press,1985, in Revue biblique 94 (1987) 273-75 (with M.S. Smith).

"2 Kings 9:31-- Jehu as Zimri," Harvard Theological Review 78 (1985) 203-207.

Review of F.E. Peters, Jerusalem. Princeton: Princeton University, 1985, in Urban History Review 16 (1987) 236-37.

Review of J. Trebolle-Barrera, Jehú y Joás. Texto y composición literaria de 2 Reyes 9-11. Valencia: Institución San Jerónimo, 1984, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48 (1986) 544-45.

"Hashalom: Some Literary Considerations of 2 Kings 9," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 46 (1984) 652-68.

"Zadok's Origins and the Tribal Politics of David," Journal of Biblical Literature 101 (1982) 177-93.

research overview

Saul M. Olyan is the author most recently of Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible (2011); Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (2008); Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions (2004); and Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult (2000).

research statement

The focus of my research is the history, literature and religion of ancient Israel, and the history of biblical interpretation. In recent years, textual representations of ritual and ritual's social dimensions (particularly, the production of inequality) have been abiding interests of mine. I have written on aspects of disability, death and the afterlife, social hierarchy, sexuality, purity and impurity, honor and shame, and gender, among other subjects.

funded research

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, December 2005: $24,000


Fellowship, Center for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 1997-98: $30,000


Yale University Morse Junior Faculty Leave Fellowship, October 1988.


American Philosophical Society, research grant for Dead Sea Scroll publication project, February 1988.


Lady Davis Post-doctoral Fellowship, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1985 (declined)