Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Baruch Levine, Bible scholar who helped grow Judaic Studies at NYU, dies at 91

(New York Jewish Week via JTA) — Baruch A. Levine, a Bible scholar who wrote the two-volume Anchor Bible commentary on the book of Numbers and the Jewish Publication Society commentary on Leviticus, died Dec. 16 in Hamden, Connecticut. He was 91.

The Emeritus Skirball Professor of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at New York University, Levine used the tools of philology and semantics — that is, language and context — to compare ancient Near Eastern texts in order to unlock the meanings of the Hebrew Bible and “reconstruct its literary history,” as he once explained.

Brandeis University historian Jonathan Sarna, in a Facebook post, called Levine “one of the great Jewish Bible scholars of his generation.”

Levine taught at Brandeis from 1962 to 1969 before coming to NYU, where he played a central role in developing what became the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. Levine also helped found the Association for Jewish Studies and served as its second president from 1971 to 1972.

In 2011, 51 of his scholarly articles were collected in a two-volume set titled “In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch Levine.”

Levine was born on July 10, 1930, in Cleveland, Ohio and attended public schools. In 1951 he earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Adelbert College of Western Reserve University. He was ordained a rabbi in 1955 at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he studied under a fabled group of scholars that included H. L. Ginsberg, Saul Lieberman, Salo Baron and Shalom Spiegel. During the summers he served as a counselor and unit head at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and as director of Camp Yavneh.

After service in the U.S. Army Reserve, he briefly served as a pulpit rabbi before enrolling as a doctoral student at Brandeis University in the Department of Mediterranean Studies.

In 1969, after teaching at Brandeis, he was appointed Professor of Hebrew and Near Eastern Languages in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at NYU. According to a biographical sketch by Lawrence Schiffman, a colleague at NYU, Levine “championed the notion that Judaic studies had to be integrated intellectually with other related disciplines and that the same academic standards applying in other disciplines had to be applied [t]here.”

Stuart S. Miller, a specialist in ancient Judaism and Professor of Hebrew, History and Judaic Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, studied with Levine in the 1970s at NYU and remained in touch with him over the years. “It was in Professor Baruch Levine’s classes that I was first exposed to critical methods of studying the Bible and became aware that the fusion of the traditional and the modern modes of inquiry could result in more fruitful and stimulating investigations of the text,” he recalled Tuesday. “It was in his undergraduate and graduate classes, furthermore, that I began to wrestle with the possible ways in which the texts of Jewish tradition reflect the societies of the peoples that produced them.

“Professor Levine’s influence also extended beyond the classroom,” Miller continued, “as I have always found his profound (and numerous!) perspectives on the life of the scholar — and much else — most illuminating. And to all, his students and colleagues, he brought contagious encouragement and good cheer. He was the consummate academic scholar and teacher of Torah.”

In 2003, after his retirement from NYU, colleagues honored Levine with a conference on Semitic papyrology, one of his specialties, and a collection of papers edited by Schiffman.

His wife, Corinne (Godfrey) Levine, died in 2016.

In a 2012 autobiographical essay, Levine described the Hebrew Bible as “a repository of ancient Near Eastern heritage. It preserves language and law, religious practices and social patterns, political norms and historical memories indicating that its authors, living in a small Levantine country, were open to the world.” This “critical” reading of the Bible, he wrote, differed greatly from the traditional Torah education he received in his youth, but as a result, “the Hebrew Bible now means even more to me!”


The post Baruch Levine, Bible scholar who helped grow Judaic Studies at NYU, dies at 91 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.