Julia Rhyder

Julia Rhyder

Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Julia Rhyder headshot.

Julia Rhyder is assistant professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Her teaching and research focus on the Hebrew Bible and Syro-Palestinian history. She adopts a broad approach to the study of the biblical writings, focusing on their context of composition as well as their transmission and reception in ancient Judaism. She is particularly interested in the ritual texts of the Hebrew Bible and the history of the Israelite cult. She combines detailed philological analysis and the methods of historical criticism with the use of anthropological and social theories to illuminate the biblical text, including ritual theory, memory studies, postcolonial theory, and discourse analysis.

Rhyder’s first book, Centralizing the Cult: The Holiness Legislation in Leviticus 17–26 (Mohr Siebeck, 2019), was awarded the 2021 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise. Centralizing the Cult shows how Leviticus 17–26 use ritual legislation to make a new, and distinctive, case as to why the Israelites must defer to a central sanctuary, standardized ritual processes, and a hegemonic priesthood. It further argues that this discourse of centralization reflected historical challenges that faced the priests in Jerusalem during the Persian period (ca. 536–323 BCE): notably, the loss of a royal sponsor, the need to mobilize socioeconomic resources, and the pressure to negotiate with the Samarian sanctuary at Mount Gerizim and with a growing diaspora.

Rhyder has published widely in edited collections and journals, including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Dead Sea Discoveries, and Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. She has recently co-edited the book Text and Ritual in the Pentateuch: A Systematic and Comparative Approach (Eisenbrauns/Penn State University Press, 2021), and has served as guest editor for the journals Semitica and Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel. In 2021, Julia Rhyder was honored with the David Noel Freedman Award for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship. Further awards include the Paul-Chapuis Secrétan prize of the University of Lausanne (2018) and conference funding grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (2016; 2017).

Rhyder is currently working on a monograph that explores key texts of the Hebrew Bible and broader Second Temple writings that describe festivals that commemorate warfare. She is also authoring a commentary on the biblical book of Amos for a new commentary series of Oxford University Press.
Rhyder is a member of the steering committees of the “Pentateuch” and “Biblical Law” program units at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting and a member of the advisory board of the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.

Rhyder holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne (2011, major: Anthropology and Social Theory), a Bachelor of Honours in Theology from the University of Divinity, Australia (2012, major: Biblical Studies), and a PhD in Theology from the University of Lausanne (2018; Hebrew Bible). Before joining Harvard University in 2021, she was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Basel, Switzerland.