Making a Case: The Practical Roots of Biblical Law (contracted with Oxford University Press).
With this project, I demonstrate that the oft-neglected Mesopotamian corpus of legal-pedagogical texts–including sample contracts, fictional cases, extracts from law collections, and legal phrasebooks–has the potential to shed fresh light on the origins of the two major blocks of “civil and criminal law” in Exodus 21-22 and Deuteronomy 19-25.
Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016)
In the ancient Near East, scribes commonly transformed their received material by adding something new to the front, or what I call “revision through introduction.” This method allowed scribes to preserve their received material while simultaneously recasting it. As a result, many biblical and Mesopotamian texts manifest multiple and even competing viewpoints. Because the new contributions launch these works, however, the texts are often read solely through the lens of their final contributors. Tracking the Master Scribe provides a fresh way of approaching this reworked material. In addition to providing overviews of hard evidence for revision in both corpora, it includes a set of detailed case studies that offer fresh insight into the trajectories of well-known biblical and Mesopotamian texts. The result is the first comprehensive profile of this key scribal method: a method that was not only ubiquitous in the ancient Near East but that epitomizes the attitudes of the scribes toward the literature that they produced. In 2017, this book earned the American Schools of Oriental Research Frank Moore Cross Award.
Co-authored with Daniel Fleming, The Buried Foundation of the Gilgamesh Epic: The Akkadian Huwawa Narrative (Brill, 2010).
This book presents a new theory to account for the emergence of the Gilgamesh Epic. For decades, all of the Akkadian Gilgamesh evidence from the early second millennium B.C.E. (or Old abylonian [OB] period) has been understood to constitute a single composition known as the OB Epic, the first brilliant precursor to the twelve-tablet Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. Contemporary with the early Akkadian material is a handful of independent Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh that have been viewed as the direct antecedents of the OB Epic. We propose, however, that between the Sumerian tales and the emergent epic there was an intermediate literary stage that we identify as the Akkadian Huwawa narrative. This old story, we suggest, only covered Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s expedition to the Cedar Forest to battle the fearsome forest guardian Huwawa. This argument is rooted both in internal evidence (i.e., inconsistencies in Tablets II and III of the OB Epic) and in hard evidence (i.e., the centrality of the Huwawa episode in a set of newly available OB Akkadian fragments; the popularity of the Sumerian tale of “Gilgamesh and Huwawa” in scribal education). Our work reflects an effort to reconstruct the Akkadian Huwawa narrative, the immediate foundation for the first Gilgamesh Epic. According to Benjamin Foster, “One concludes this book with a lively admiration for the authors’ ingenuity, learning, and literary sensitivity. It deserves a place of honor among the many interpretive studies of the Gilgamesh Epic for its originality, acumen, daring, and depth of reflection.”
Sara Milstein is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies. She is the author of Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature (Oxford University Press), which earned the Frank Moore Cross Award from the American Schools of Oriental Research in 2017; and co-author with Daniel Fleming of The Buried Foundation of the Gilgamesh Epic: The Akkadian Huwawa Narrative (Brill). A graduate of Bates College (B.A. in English), City College of New York (M.A. in Secondary Education in English) and New York University (M.A./Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies), she has been the recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012), the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (2009-2010, 2012-2013), the Killam Foundation (2017), and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (2018-2019). In 2016, she was the recipient of the Killam Teaching Prize. Her current book project, Making a Case: The Practical Roots of Biblical Law, is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and is contracted with Oxford University Press.
Grants and Awards
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Exchange Arts Workshop Grant, with Reinhard Mueller, “Making a Case: The Origins and Legacy of Biblical and Near Eastern Law” (2020-2021)
SSHRC Insight Grant, “Making a Case: The Origins and Legacy of Biblical and Near Eastern Law” (2019-2021)
SSHRC Connection Grant, “The Emergent Legal Mind in the Ancient Middle East” (2019-2020)
Peter Wall Special Projects Fund, “The Emergent Legal Mind in the Ancient Middle East” (2019-2020)
Peter Wall Institute, Special Projects Fund (with Jessica Dempsey, Malabika Pramanik, and Anna Casas-Aguilar), “Building the 1.5 Degree UBC: Reducing Work-Related Aviation Emissions” (2019)
Arts Undergraduate Research Award (AURA), UBC Faculty of Arts, “Making a Case: The Emergent Legal Imagination in the Ancient Near East” (2018, 2016)
American Schools of Oriental Research Frank Moore Cross Award (for Tracking the Master Scribe, 2017). This award is presented to the editor/author of the most substantial volume(s) related to one of the following categories: a) the history and/or religion of ancient Israel; b) ancient Near Eastern and eastern Mediterranean epigraphy; c) textual studies on the Hebrew Bible; or d) comparative studies of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern literature.
Killam Teaching Prize (university-wide teaching prize, 2017)
SSHRC, Insight Development Grant, “Nothing but the Truth: Near Eastern Scribes and the Production of Legal ‘Opinions’” (2015-2018)
Hampton Grant, “Making a Case: The Impact of Mesopotamian ‘Lawsuits’ on the Hebrew Bible” (2014-2017)
Ephraim Urbach Postdoctoral Fellowship, “Scribal Exchange in the Ancient Near East: Textual Revision in New Settings” (2012-2013)
Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowship, “Revamping Ancient Texts: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Narratives” (2010-2011)
Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Doctoral Scholarship, “Reworking Ancient Texts: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature” (2009-2010)
Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship, “Reworking Ancient Texts: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature” (2009-2010)
I am open to supervising any promising students in the areas of biblical studies and/or ancient Near Eastern studies. Please contact me directly through email if you would like to discuss the possibility of studying in our Department.
• Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
• Fleming, Daniel and Sara J. Milstein. The Buried Foundation of the Gilgamesh Epic: The Akkadian Huwawa Narrative, Cuneiform Monographs Series 39 (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2010).
Journal Articles and Chapters
• “Insights from Tradition into the Biblical Law of the Slavewoman (Exodus 21:7-11),” Biblische Notizen (forthcoming).
• “The Role of Legal Texts in Scribal Education: Implications for Biblical Law,” The Scribe in the Biblical World, ed. Esti Eshel and Michael Langlois (forthcoming).
• “The Origins of Deuteronomic ‘Law,’” IOSOT Conference Volume, ed. Joachim Schaper (forthcoming).
• “The Origins of the Laws,” in Cambridge Companion to Law and the Hebrew Bible, ed. Bruce Wells (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
• “Sleeping In(serted): Humor and Revision in the Adapa Mythic Tradition,” Archiv für Orientforschung 54 (2020): 1–17.
• “Will and (Old) Testament: Reconsidering the Roots of Deuteronomy 25,5-10,” in Writing, Rewriting and Overwriting in the books of Deuteronomy and of the Former Prophets: Essays in Honor of Cynthia Edenburg, eds. Thomas Römer, Ido Koch, and Omer Sergi, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium (Leuven: Peeters, 2019), 49–63.
• “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: The Independent Origins of Deut 22:25–27,” Journal of Biblical Literature 137.3 (2018): 625-643.
• “Making a Case: The Repurposing of ‘Israelite Legal Fictions’ as Post-Deuteronomic Law,” Supplementation and the Study of the Hebrew Bible, ed. Saul Olyan and Jacob Wright (Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2017), 161-181.
• “Outsourcing Gilgamesh,” in ed., Raymond Person and Robert Rezetko, Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism (Atlanta, Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature, 2016), 37-62.
• “Saul the Levite and His Concubine: The ‘Allusive’ Quality of Judges 19,” Vetus Testamentum 66 (2016): 95-116.
• “Insights into Editing from Mesopotamian Literature: Mirror or Mirage?” in ed., Reinhard Müller, Juha Pakkala, and Bas ter Haar Romeny, Insights into Editing in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2016).
• “The Origins of Adapa,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie 105.1 (2015): 30-41.
• “The Magic of Adapa,” in ed., Paul Delnero and Jacob Lauinger, Texts and Contexts: Approaches to Textual Transmission in the Cuneiform World (Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 2015).
• “Delusions of Grandeur: Revision through Introduction in Judges 6-9,” in ed., John Greene, A Life in Parables and Poetry: Pedagogue, Poet, Scholar: Essays in Honor of Mishael Maswari Caspi (Berlin: Klaus-Schwarz Verlag, 2014), 210-239.
• “‘Who Would Not Write?’ The Prophet as Yhwh’s Prey in Amos 3:3-8,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 75 (2013): 429-445.
• “From Rambam to Richard Wright: Job, the Delayed Angel, and the Conception of Modern Midrashim,” in ed., Mishael Caspi, Why Hidest Thy Face: Job in Traditions and Literature (Berkeley, California: Bibal Press, 2002).
• “Adapa,” in ed., Lisbeth Fried, Routledge Dictionary of Ancient Mediterranean Religions (New York: Routledge, 2015).
• “Enkidu,” in ed., Lisbeth Fried, Routledge Dictionary of Ancient Mediterranean Religions (New York: Routledge, 2015).
• “Gilgamesh,” in ed., Lisbeth Fried, Routledge Dictionary of Ancient Mediterranean Religions (New York: Routledge, 2015).
I am Chair of the Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature Section and Steering Committee Member of the Deuteronomy Section at the Society of Biblical Literature.
RELG475B Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections
Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.
One fine body…
RELG307 Sex, Lies, and Violence in the Hebrew Bible Sections
An exploration of the Bible's "dark side," with emphasis on texts that center on sex, deceit, and murder.
One fine body…
RELG500B Topics in Biblical Studies - BIBLICAL STUDIES Sections
Studies in the history, literature, canon and text, and the religious thought of the Old and New Testaments. This includes the study of the cultural and religious milieu out of which these documents arose. Such studies require a competence in the canonical languages (Biblical Hebrew and/or Koine Greek), usually achieved by not less than two years of study.
One fine body…
NEST315 Introduction to Akkadian Sections
The basic grammar and introduction to the cuneiform writing system of the Akkadian language of the Ancient Near East.
One fine body…