Professor of Rabbinic Judaism and Head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Tel: 020 7679 0483
Sacha Stern is Professor of Rabbinic Judaism and Head of Department at the UCL Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He holds a BA in Ancient History from Oxford (1986), an MA in Social Anthropology from UCL (1988), and a D.Phil in Jewish Studies from Oxford (1992). He has also studied in Yeshivot in Israel. Before joining UCL in 2005, he was Lecturer in Jewish Studies at Jews' College, London and then Reader in Jewish Studies at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies).
Prof. Sacha Stern specializes in ancient Jewish history. His research has focused on two main areas:
- Jewish and early rabbinic attitudes towards pagans and paganism. He has recently written articles on early rabbinic attitudes to non-Jewish wine and Graeco-Roman pagan images, and on Jewish participation in pagan cults.
- the Jewish calendar, the concept of time, and the history of calendars in Antiquity and the Middle Ages.
He has also written general articles on early rabbinic literature and rabbinic history (e.g. 'Attribution and authorship in the Babylonian Talmud' (1995) and 'Rabbi and the origins of the Patriarchate' (2003)).
His latest monograph, Calendars in Antiquity (2012), examines the calendars of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Gaul, and all other parts of the Mediterranean and the Near East, from the origins up to and including Jewish and Christian calendars in late Antiquity. He points out the political context in which ancient calendars were designed and managed. Set and controlled by political rulers, calendars served as expressions of political power, as mechanisms of social control, and sometimes as assertions of political independence, or even of sub-culture and dissidence. Stern contends that calendars should not be treated as a technical curiosity, but rather as an integral part of ancient culture and society.
From October 2008, he has been directing several major research projects on the Jewish calendar in the Middle Ages: Medieval Monographs on the Jewish Calendar (AHRC), The Jewish Calendar in Early Islamic Sources (Leverhulme), Medieval Christian And Jewish Calendar Texts From England And Franco-Germany (Leverhulme), and Jewish Calendar Controversies in the 10th-11th Centuries Near East: a historical and codicological analysis (British Academy), with a total staff of five research associates and several international collaborators.
From 2013 to 2018, he directed an ERC (European Research Council) Advanced Grant research project entitled Calendars in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: standardization and fixation. Together with five research associates, he is studying the evolution of calendars in late antique and medieval societies by focusing on several research areas: the seven-day week in the Roman Empire, late antique comparative calendars (the hemerologia), medieval Jewish calendar disputes, and medieval monographs in Arabic and Hebrew on astronomy and the many ancient and medieval calendars.
As part of his research on calendars, he has edited and published a number of ancient inscriptions and medieval Hebrew manuscripts. Within the ERC project, he is preparing a new edition and a historical study of the Cairo Genizah manuscripts relating to the Jewish calendar dispute of 921/2 CE, in collaboration with Prof. Marina Rustow (Johns Hopkins University).
Sacha Stern is editor of the Journal of Jewish Studies (jointly with Prof. Sarah Pearce, Southampton University) and of the Brill series Texts and Studies on Time, Astronomy, and Calendars (jointly with Prof. Charles Burnett, the Warburg Institute).
Sacha Stern teaches BA and MA courses in ancient Jewish history and in rabbinic Judaism
- Judaism and the origins of Christianity
- Greeks and Jews: Antiquity and the modern world
- Rabbis and Judaism in late Antiquity
- Introduction to the Babylonian Talmud
He also supervises doctoral students.