Benjamin Fisher

Associate Professor and Director of Jewish Studies


Contact Information

LA 4226


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2011

Areas of Expertise

Early Modern Europe, Jewish history


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.

Selected Publications

"God's Word Defended: Menasseh ben Israel, Biblical Chronology, and the Erosion of Biblical Authority," in Dirk van Miert et al, eds. Scriptural Authority and Biblical Criticism in the Dutch Golden Age: God's Word Questioned (Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 2017 - forthcoming), 155-174.

"From Boxes and Cabinets to Bibliotheca: Building the Jewish Library of the Ex-Conversos in Amsterdam, 1620-1665," European Journal of Jewish Studies (accepted and forthcoming). 32pp.

“For God and Country: Jewish Identity and the State in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam,” Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman, ed. Richard Cohen et al.  (Hebrew Union College Press and University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), 50-62.

“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

“Sefer Hizzuk Emunah for Sephardi Eyes: Manuscripts, Marginalia, and Translation.”  University of Oxford: Oxford Seminar in Advanced Judaic Studies Conference: Jewish Books in Amsterdam 1600-1850 – Authors, Producers, Readers, and the Construction of Jewish Worlds.  June 15, 2015.
“From Boxes and Cabinets to the Bibliotheca: Building the Jewish Library of the Ex-Conversos, 1620-1670.” University of Oxford: Oxford Seminar in Advanced Judaic Studies Presentation, May 12, 2015.
 “‘The greatest problem that there is in Scripture:’ Menasseh ben Israel, Mathematics, and the Authority of the Bible in Early Modern Europe.”  Harvard University, Starr Seminar Presentation: Center for Jewish Studies, March 11, 2014.

"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

Dorset Visiting Fellowship, University of Oxford:  Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies (Trinity Term, 2015)

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.
Doris Quinn Dissertation Completion Fellowship: 2010.
Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, Dissertation Scholarship: 2009, 2010
Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, Department of History: 2004-2009.
Canada Graduate Scholarship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: 2003-2004.

 FALL 2019
HIST 102 European Civilization Through the 17th Century
HIST 102 European Civilization Through the 17th Century
HIST 300 Introduction to Historical Study