Trained in Bible, Semitic languages and comparative religion at Harvard, Hebrew University, and Johns Hopkins, Seth L. Sanders studies how political identities and religious experience were created in ancient Israel.His work connects the Bible, Jewish identity, and political thought from ancient Israel to modern nationalism.
His first book, The Invention of Hebrew (awarded the Frank Moore Cross prize from the American Schools of Oriental Research and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award) argues that Hebrew was the first successful vernacular literature, which helped create ancient Israel and the Bible as both historical and imaginative possibilities. His second book, Heavenly Journeys and Scholarly Knowledge: The Transformation of Scribal Cultures in Judea and Babylonia (f/c from Brill) explores the cultures that created the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls via their material life and mythical heroes. He is the editor of the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions.
"Much of my thinking begins as dialogue with students and colleagues. What gets me up in the morning to teach is my interest in what the class might say. Once I assign them to respond to a text or idea, they inevitably find some dimension I would never have seen on my own. I incorporate their discoveries into my teaching. When my Women in the Hebrew Bible students do good critiques of scholarship, I felt proud. But when their work incorporates each others’ insights, then I feel I have truly done my job.”
He feels that collaborative and cross-disciplinary projects are the best way to push his field forward and explore its relevance to other areas of thought. He organized the first conference on the politics of writing in the ancient Near East, Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (University of Chicago, 2004) and is currently co-organizing the Trinity Historical Media Project with Christopher Hager of the English Department. He also maintains strong interests in music writing and outdoor exploration, exemplified in a paper he presented for the Experience Music Project pop conference, "The Dream of Totaling the Sun, Moon and Mountains by May 1968," on apocalyptic elements in contemporary music, which he completed on the slopes of Mt. Ranier.