Prestigious Book Award Won by JTS Scholar

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

December 2, 2009, New York, NY

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (Cambridge University Press, June 2009), written by Dr. Benjamin Sommer, professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), has been awarded the 2009 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the area of Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology. The award covers books written in these areas between 2006–2009.

The Jordan Schnitzer Book Award recognizes and promotes outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish studies and honors scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing, and sophisticated methodology. The Prize Committee described Dr. Sommer’s book as "an original, wide-ranging, and accessible work of scholarship . . . a cross-cultural tour-de-force” and wrote that his "thesis has implications for understanding not only the theology of ancient Israel but also the theologies of its surrounding world, whether in Mesopotamia or the Levant, as well as those of rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.”

A labor of love ten years in the making, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel explores a lost ancient Near Eastern perception of divinity that believed the essential difference between gods and humans was that gods had more than one body and fluid, unbounded selves. Dr. Sommer then argues that this perception has important repercussions not only for biblical scholarship and comparative religion, but for Jewish-Christian dialogue as well.

A member of the JTS faculty since July 2008, Dr. Sommer teaches Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and religions of the ancient Near East, specializing in the history of Israelite religion, literary analysis of the Bible, and biblical theology. Previously, Dr. Sommer served as the director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, where he taught for fourteen years. He has been a visiting faculty member at various institutions, including the University of Chicago, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Long an active lecturer and scholar-in-residence, Dr. Sommer has taught rabbis, Jewish educators, and laypeople in a variety of settings in the United States and Israel. He holds a PhD in Bible from the University of Chicago, an MA in Near East and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and a BA in Philosophy and Judaic Studies—summa cum laude, with distinction in both majors—from Yale University.

An award reception will be held on Sunday, December 20, at the 2009 Association for Jewish Studies conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel can be purchased on, Barnes&, or via Cambridge University Press.