My training is in early Judaism, ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures, the Hebrew Bible, and early and oral literatures. A student of Frank Moore Cross and Albert Bates Lord, I have devoted much of my research to exploring the qualities of oral traditional literatures found in the preserved literature of the ancient Israelites. I am interested in the ways in which the written works of the Hebrew Bible reflect both the style and worldviews of an essentially oral world.
Another important area of interest for me is religious ethics. I have written, taught, and lectured on the topic of war in the Hebrew Bible. This important area of my research has grown out of my teaching at Amherst in response to students who seek an explanation for the violence that permeates the Hebrew Bible. My work has also been shaped and influenced by teaching with colleagues in a comparative religion context.
A third area my research deals with the body in ancient Judaism. I am currently writing a new monograph on hair in the Hebrew Bible, a study in the body, religion, and identity, framed both by work in ancient Israelite culture and by a range of approaches from the fields of anthropology, history of ancient Near Eastern art, sociology, and gender studies.