Professor Weitzman’s work centers on the Hebrew Bible and what it means for different kinds of readers. Some of his research also focuses on the literature composed in the centuries following the biblical age--the Dead Sea Scrolls, the historian Josephus and other ancient sources. Falling in the centuries between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, this was an age that would shape the later development of Judaism and Christianity, and the aim of much of Weitzman’s work is to develop fresh interpretations of the texts composed in this period, and to explore what they teach us about topics like the origins of religious violence or the history of messianism.
Weitzman’s most recent publication is a biography of King Solomon from Yale University Press entitled Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom. Weitzman’s biography explores what we know about the historical King Solomon from archaeology and other sources, but his ultimate goal is to illumine the ways in which Solomon’s story has impacted Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition--and shapes the pursuit of wisdom and ultimate understanding to this day.
Weitzman’s The Jews: A History, which he co-authored with John Efron, Matthias Lehmann and Joshua Holo, is a comprehensive overview of Jewish history that draws on the insights of recent research to provide a more up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of Jewish history than is found in other surveys. It is the first history of the Jews written in English that is intended to work as a college-level textbook, designed to help the reader learn and understand, and Weitzman contributed the first third of the book, covering in his section more than fifteen hundred years of Jewish history from the beginnings in the biblical age through the period of Greek and Roman rule to the rise of Islam in the seventh century C.E..
In Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity, Professor Weitzman considers how Jewish culture managed to survive under Babylonian, Persian, Hellenic and Roman rule. The book draws on early Jewish history to probe how a culture preserves its traditions over a long period of time, the mix of imagination and pragmatism that it takes to persist in a world where everything is constantly changing. His earliest book, Song and Story in Biblical Narrative illustrates Weitzman’s interest in the Bible as a work of literature, why it tells its stories in the way that it does. One of his current projects represents a significant departure from anything he has done previously, a study of how the FBI perceives religion and interacts with religious communities.
Professor Weitzman received his Ph.D. from Harvard University after completing his B.A. at UC Berkeley, and spent several years teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University where he served as director of its Jewish Studies program for six years. At Stanford since 2009, many of his courses focus on the role the Hebrew Bible has played in the development of faith and culture, or on the foundational texts, people and ideas of Jewish culture. His teaching includes a large introductory Humanities course entitled “Ultimate Meanings”, a freshman introductory seminar that explores various representations of the afterlife., and an introduction to Judaism as a religion. Although not an archaeologist, Weitzman is also a long time collaborator with the Tel Beth Shemesh archaeological excavation In Israel, a site associated with the biblical figure of Samson.
Weitzman has been the director of Stanford’s Taube Center for Jewish Studies since the fall of 2011.