Comparative Religion and Humanities

Jed Wyrick

I come to the field of Religious Studies from the disciplines of philology and literary analysis. As an undergraduate, I studied the languages, literatures, and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel. I received my PhD in Comparative Literature, emphasizing the intersection of classical and biblical studies. My work focuses on ancient Greek poetry and historiography, Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, midrash (Jewish interpretation of the Bible), Hellenistic culture and scholarship, the New Testament and early Christian literature, and Yiddish language and literature. My theoretical interests are in poetics, literary and critical theory, theories of religion, and approaches to culture that derive from the study of anthropology (performance theory, gift exchange and economics of pre-literate societies, myth and ritual, and structuralism).

I am the author of The Ascension of Authorship: Attribution, Textualization, and Canon Formation in Jewish, Hellenistic, and Christian Traditions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), together with articles on Pseudepigraphy, Biblical Characters in Jewish Greek Literature, and modern Yiddish literature. I am currently completing a book on Artapanus, who wrote biographies in Greek of the patriarchs Abraham, Joseph, and Moses and their putative role in the creation of ancient Egyptian culture.

I regularly teach RELS 204I/MJIS 204I Judaism and the Minority Experience, RELS/MJIS 205 Jews, Muslims, and the West, RELS 364 C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: Theology and Myth, RELS 306 Roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, RELS 308 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Since the Crusades, and HUMN 220 Arts and Ideas: Ancient/Medieval.


The Ascension of Authorship: Attribution, Textualization, and Canon Formation in Jewish, Hellenistic, and Christian Traditions

I was never really as interested in the question "who wrote the Bible?" as I was in the question, "who did early Jews and Christians think wrote the Bible?" Most scholars really get caught up in the first question, and forget or ignore the second. But the thing is, the second question is in some ways more crucial for understanding how the Bible and other ancient texts were shaped than the first. This book explores the evidence from the nooks and crannies of literary history (such as passages from the Jewish Talmud, references in the Apocryphya, Pseudepigrapha, and Dead Sea Scrolls, scribal headings attached to the Psalms in the Bible and its early translations, Greek grammatical handbooks, writings by ancient historians and theologians) that convey information about the way books such as the Hebrew Bible, Homeric Epic, and the New Testament got written down, and by whom. My conclusion: Jews, Greeks, and Christians judged the authenticity of the book in question by evaluating the status of its scribe and his place in the prophetic succession (Jews and Christians) or the likelihood that it was actually written down by the person whose name it bore (Greeks and Christians). I also maintain that the modern Western notion of the author stems from St. Augustine's amalgamation of Greek and Jewish views on how much a text can be credited to the person who composed it.