Benjamin Fisher joined the History Department in 2011. He earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania for his 2011 dissertation, "The Centering of the Bible in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam: Jewish Religion, Culture, and Scholarship." Dr. Fisher studies the social, intellectual, and cultural history of Jewish society in medieval and early modern Europe. His research focuses on the history of the ways in which Jews in diverse settings have studied and taught the Bible, the origins of modern critical approaches to biblical scholarship in Jewish and Christian communities, and the impact of the Protestant Reformation on Jewish religious culture. Benjamin is currently working to expand his dissertation into a book that describes the emergence of the Bible, rather than Talmud and rabbinic literature, as the central focus of education, culture, and rabbinic scholarship in the Jewish community of seventeenth-century Amsterdam. This project provides valuable context for understanding the emergence of Benedict Spinoza from within this milieu, one of Europe's most impactful early modern philosophers and readers of the Bible, and for understanding the primacy of the Bible as a cultural resource in many modern Jewish communities.
"For God and Country: Jewish Identity and the State in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam," in Festschrift for David Ruderman, ed. Richard I. Cohen, Natalie Dohrmann, Elhanan Reiner, and Adam Shear, forthcoming 2014.
“Opening the Eyes of the Novos Reformados: Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira, Radical Christianity, and the Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, 1620-1660,” Studia Rosenthaliana 44 (2012), 117-148.
Recent Lectures and Presentations
"Reading the Bible Through a Historical Lens: Biblical Scholarship, Memory, and Religious Identity in Early Modern Europe." Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. San Francisco, California. November 21, 2011.
"Menasseh Ben Israel's Infallible Bible: The Limits of Biblical Chronology." Sixteenth Century Society Conference. Montreal, Canada. October 17, 2010.
"Saul Levi Morteira: A Jewish Reader of the New Testament." Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference. Los Angeles, California. December 21, 2009.
Honors and Awards
Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica: Harvard University, Center for Jewish Studies (January - June, 2014)
Adjunct Fellow, Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania: Jan. – Feb., 2011.