Benjamin D. Sommer

Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages

Department: Bible, Hebrew University, Tikvah Center for Jewish Law and Civilization, Shalom Hartman Institute

Phone: (212) 678-6116


Building Room: Unterberg 505


BA, summa cum laude, with distinction in Philosophy and in Judaic Studies, Yale University, 1986; Studies in the department of Bible at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1986–1987; MA, Bible and Ancient Near East, Brandeis University, 1991; PhD, with distinction, Religion/Biblical Studies, University of Chicago, 1994

Benjamin D. Sommer joined The Jewish Theological Seminary faculty as professor of Bible in July 2008. Previously, he served as director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, where he had taught since 1994. Dr. Sommer has been a fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Tikvah Center for Jewish Law and Civilization at the New York University School of Law, and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He has served as a visiting faculty member in the Department of Bible of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Yad Hanadiv/Berakha Foundation.

Dr. Sommer has long been active as a lecturer and scholar-in-residence, teaching rabbis, Jewish educators, and laypeople in a variety of settings in the United States and Israel.  

He and his wife, Jennifer Dugdale, have three children, who attend S.A.R. High School in Riverdale and the Solomon Schechter School of Bergen County. 

Grants, Fellowships, and Awards

  • Goldstein-Goren Book Award, 2016
  • Israel Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University, 2012–2013.
  • Tivkah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization at New York University Law School. Fellowship, 2011–2012.
  • William Scheide Fellowship in Theology, Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ, 2011–2012 (declined).
  • Jordan Schnitzer Award (Association of Jewish Studies, 2009) in the category of Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology for books published in 2006–2009.
  • The Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion, for the best book in religious studies focusing on textual analysis published in 2009.
  • Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize (American Academy for Jewish Research, 1999) for the best first book on biblical, ancient, or medieval Judaism published in 1998.
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1998–1999.
  • Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation Fellowship, 1998–1999.
  • National Humanities Center Fellowship in Research Triangle Park, NC, 1998–1999 (declined)


  • Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015 (Anchor Bible Reference Library). At once a study of biblical theology and modern Jewish thought, this volume describes the ways biblical authors and contemporary theologians alike understand the process of revelation and hence the authority of the law.
  • Jewish Concepts of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction. Editor. New York: New York University Press, 2012.
  • A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. Dr. Sommer examines the ways Deutero-Isaiah drew upon and reworked older biblical texts, and the implications of the prophet’s frequent recourse to older texts for our understanding of the history of Israelite religion. Winner of the 1999 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize in 1998.
  • The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Dr. Sommer addresses perceptions of divine embodiment in ancient Israel, Canaan, and Assyria, and how these perceptions reappear in later Jewish philosophy and mysticism. Winner of the 2009 Jordan Schnitzer Award of the Association of Jewish Studies in the category of Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology, and winner of the 2010 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Textual Studies category) from the American Academy of Religion. 
  • Dr. Sommer is the editor of the Psalms volumes of the Jewish Publication Society Bible Commentary series and is writing the first book of that five-volume set.


An overarching concern of Dr. Sommer’s scholarship involves the close and manifold relationships between biblical thought and later Jewish theology, or, to use the Hebrew phrasing, between Torah shebiktav and Torah shebe’al peh. His books have won multiple awards from scholarly organizations.