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Ra‘anan Boustan


Contact Information

Email    boustan@history.ucla.edu
Office  5375 Bunche Hall
Phone  310-825-1977
Ra‘anan Boustan is an Associate Professor in the Department of History.

He is a historian of religion specializing in Jewish culture and society in the ancient Mediterranean world. His research focuses on Jewish literary and material culture in late antiquity (c. 200–800 CE), with special emphasis on how these sources shed light on the dynamic intersections between Judaism and other Mediterranean religious traditions—Greek, Roman, and Christian.

Boustan completed his B.A. in Classics at Brown University in 1994 and received a graduate degree in Classics and Religious Studies from the University of Amsterdam during his stay in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Fellow in 1994–95. In 2004, he completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Religion at Princeton University with a dissertation on the relationship between Jewish mysticism and rabbinic martyrology in the early Byzantine period.

His doctoral work served as the basis for his first book, From Martyr to Mystic: Rabbinic Martyrology and the Making of Merkavah Mysticism (Mohr Siebeck, 2005). In addition, Dr. Boustan has co-edited six volumes, most recently Hekhalot Literature in Context: Between Byzantium and Babylonia (with Martha Himmelfarb and Peter Schäfer) (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).

He is currently writing a book entitled The Holy Remains: Tokens of Cult and Kingship between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity, which traces the fate of the ritual vessels from the Jewish Temple after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the meanings that these sacred objects carried in Jewish and Christian memory.

Primary teaching and research interests: Jewish mystical, apocalyptic, magical, and liturgical literatures; Midrash and Hebrew narrative literature; Jewish/Christian relations in late antiquity; martyrdom and religious violence; theory and method in the study of religion.


Ph.D. Religion, Princeton University, 2004

Selected Publications


From Martyr to Mystic: Rabbinic Martyrology and the Making of Merkavah Mysticism, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 112 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).

Edited Books and Volumes

With Jacco Dieleman and Joseph E. Sanzo. Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World, special issue of Archiv für Religionsgeschichte. Forthcoming 2015.

With Adam H. Becker. Matter of Contention: Sacred Objects at the Crossroads of Religious Traditions, special issue of Material Religion 10.4 (2014): 408–525.

With Martha Himmelfarb and Peter Schäfer. Hekhalot Literature in Context: Between Byzantium and Babylonia (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).

With Reimund Leicht, Klaus Herrmann, Annette Yoshiko Reed, and Giuseppe Veltri, with Alex Ramos. Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion His 70th Birthday, 2 vols. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).

With Oren Kosansky and Marina Rustow. Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History: Authority, Diaspora, Tradition (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

With Alex Jassen and Calvin Roetzel. Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 2010). Reprint of special edition of Biblical Interpretation 17.1-2 (2009): 1-264.

With Annette Yoshiko Reed. Blood and the Boundaries of Jewish and Christian Identities in Late Antiquity, special theme-section of Henoch 30.2 (2008): 229–364.

With Annette Yoshiko Reed. Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Journal Articles and Book Chapters (Select)

With Karen Britt. “The ‘Elephant’ Mosaic in the Synagogue at Huqoq: First Publication and Initial Interpretation.” In preparation.

“3 Enoch,” in The Textual History of the Bible: Deutero-Canonical Scriptures, ed. Matthias Henze (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

With Joseph E. Sanzo. “Christian Magicians, Jewish Magic, and the Shared Magical Culture of Late Antiquity,” Harvard Theological Review (forthcoming 2016).

With Michael Beshay. “Sealing the Demons, Once and For All: The Ring of Solomon, the Cross of Christ, and the Power of Biblical Kingship,” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte (forthcoming 2015).

“Jewish Veneration of the ‘Special Dead’ in Late Antiquity and Beyond,” in Saints and Sacred Matter: The Cult of Relics in Byzantium and Beyond, ed. Cynthia Hahn and Holger Klein (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 2015), 61–81.

“Secrets without Mystery: Esotericism in Early Jewish Mysticism,” Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 15.1 (2015): 10–15.

With Patrick G. McCullough. “Apocalyptic Literature and the Study of Early Jewish Mysticism,” in The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, ed. John J. Collins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 85–103.

With Joseph E. Sanzo. “Mediterranean Jews in a Christianizing Empire," in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila, ed. Michael Maas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 360–76.

“The Contested Reception of the Story of the Ten Martyrs in Medieval Midrash,” in Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion His 70th Birthday, ed. Ra‘anan Boustan et al., 2 vols. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), 1:369–94.

“Israelite Kingship, Christian Rome, and the Jewish Imperial Imagination: Midrashic Precursors to the Medieval ‘Throne of Solomon,’” in Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity, ed. Natalie Dohrmann and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 167–82, notes 319–24.

With Marie Thérèse Champagne. “Walking in the Shadows of the Past: The Jewish Experience of Rome in the Twelfth Century”, Medieval Encounters 17 (2011): 462–92.

“Rabbinization and the Making of Early Jewish Mysticism,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 101.4 (2011): 482–501.

“Confounding Blood: Jewish Narratives of Sacrifice and Violence in Late Antiquity,” in Sacrifice in the Ancient Mediterranean: Images, Acts, Meanings, ed. Jennifer Wright Knust and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 265–86.

“The Dislocation of the Temple Vessels: Mobile Sanctity and Rabbinic Rhetorics of Space,” in Tradition, Authority, Diaspora: Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of History and Anthropology, ed. Ra‘anan S. Boustan, Oren Kosansky, and Marina Rustow (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 135–46, notes 365–70.

“Augustine as Revolutionary? Reflections on Continuity and Rupture in Jewish–Christian Relations in Paula Fredriksen’s Augustine and the Jews,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 99.1 (2009): 74–87.

“Focus Unit: Sanctified Violence in History (An Introduction),” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 77.4 (2009): 823–24. (Uncredited)

“Immolating Emperors: Spectacles of Imperial Suffering and the Making of a Jewish Minority Culture in Late Antiquity,” Biblical Interpretation 17.1-2 (2009): 207-38.

“Blood and Atonement in the Pseudo-Clementines and The Story of the Ten Martyrs: The Problem of Selection in the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christianity” (with Annette Yoshiko Reed), Henoch 30.2 (2008): 333–64.

“The Spoils of the Jerusalem Temple at Rome and Constantinople: Jewish Counter-Geography in a Christianizing Empire,” in Antiquity in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Pasts in the Greco-Roman World, ed. Gregg Gardner and Kevin Osterloh (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 327–72.

“The Study of Heikhalot Literature—Between Religious Experience and Textual Artifact,” Currents in Biblical Research 6 (2007): 135–67.

“The Emergence of Pseudonymous Attribution in Heikhalot Literature: Empirical Evidence from the Jewish ‘Magical’ Corpora,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 14 (2007): 18–38.

“Competing Attitudes toward Rabbi Ishmael’s Priestly Genealogy in Heikhalot Literature,” in Paradise Now: Essays on Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism, ed. April DeConick (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 127–41.

“Imperialisms in Jewish History, From Pre- to Post-Modern,” in AJS Perspectives: The Newsletter of the Association for Jewish Studies (Fall 2005): 8–10.

“A Hebrew Hymn of Praise for a High-priestly Rabbinic Martyr: A Note on the Relationship between the Synagogue Liturgy and Rabbinic Literary Culture,” Zutot 4 (2004): 28–35.

“Angels in the Architecture: Temple Art and the Poetics of Praise in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice,” in Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions, ed. Ra‘anan S. Boustan and Annette Yoshiko Reed (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 195–212.

“Seven-fold Hymns in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Hekhalot Literature: Formalism, Hierarchy, and the Limits of Human Participation,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls as Background to Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. James R. Davila, STDJ 46 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 220–47.

“Rabbi Ishmael’s Miraculous Conception: Jewish Redemption History in Anti-Christian Polemic,” in The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, TSAJ 95 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003; repr., Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 307–43.

“Negotiating Difference: Genital Mutilation in Roman Slave Law and the History of the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered, ed. Peter Schäfer, TSAJ 100 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 71–91.

“Eunuchs and Gender Transformation: Philo’s Exegesis of the Joseph Narrative,” in Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond, ed. Shaun Tougher (London: Duckworth, 2002), 103–21.

“The Depiction of the Jews as Typhonians and Josephus’ Strategy of Refutation in Contra Apionem,” (with Jan Willem van Henten) in Josephus’ Contra Apionem: Studies in its Character and Context, ed. Louis H. Feldman and John R. Levison, AGJU 34 (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 271–309.

Book Reviews

Andrew S. Jacobs, Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), in Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81.3 (forthcoming 2013).

Jonathan Klawans, Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), in AJS Review 32 (2008): 169–72.

Pieter W. van der Horst, Het vroege jodendom van A tot Z: Een kleine encyclopedie over de eerste duizend jaar (ca. 350 v.Chr.–650 n.Chr.) (Zoetermeer: Meinema, 2006), in Journal for the Study of Judaism 38 (2007): 436–38.

Andreas Lehnardt, Qaddish: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Rezeption eines rabbinischen Gebetes, TSAJ 87 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), in Jewish Quarterly Review 97 (2007): 65–69.

Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), in Jewish Quarterly Review 96 (2006): 441–46.

Vita Daphna Arbel, Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003), in Journal of the American Oriental Society 125 (2005): 123–26.

Erich S. Gruen, Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), in Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 5 (2003): 379–83.

Conferences Organized

“Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World,” University of California, Los Angeles, October 2012

“Matter of Contention: Relics and Other Sacred Objects at the Crossroads of Religious Traditions,” University of Texas at Austin, April 2012

“Hekhalot Literature in Context: From Byzantium to Babylonia,” Princeton University, November 2010

“Sanctified Violence in Ancient Mediterranean Religions: Discourse, Ritual, Community,” University of Minnesota, October 2007

“In Heaven as it is on Earth: Imagined Realms and Earthly Realities,” Princeton University, January 2001


Ancient Mediterranean, Jewish