James S. Ackerman

James S. Ackerman

Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies


  • Th.D., Harvard University, 1966

Research interests

  • Religion and Literature of Israel
  • Ancient Near East
  • Bible as Literature

About James S. Ackerman

My training is in the history, religion and literature of ancient Israel within their larger Near Eastern cultural contexts. Since I have been at IU, I have developed a special interest in literary analysis of biblical texts. My most recent publications include articles on the books of Numbers and Jonah (in the Alter-Kermode Literary Guide to the Bible), 2 Samuel (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1990), and 1 Samuel (Prooftexts, 1991); and my current research project involves a study of the differing earliest versions of Samuel, attempting to trace how a written text gradually evolves into its final form. Presently I am writing my long-delayed monograph on the wilderness narratives in Exodus and Numbers. Although I am now retired, for the past two years I have taught the spring semester seminar for the freshman Wells Scholars: "The Book of Genesis and its Reworking in Western Culture."

Recent articles & other publications

"The Literary Context of the Moses Birth story," in Literary Interpretation of Biblical Narrative Vol. 1,, ed. By Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, with J.S Ackerman and T.S Warshaw (Abingdon, 1974), pp. 74-119.

"Satire and Symbolism in the song of Jonah," in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, (Frank Moore Cross Festschrift, No. 1) ed. By J.D. Levenson and B. Halpern (Eisenbraun’s 1981), pp. 213-246

"Joseph, Judah and Jacob," in Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives, Vol.2, ed. By Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, with J.S Ackerman (Abingdon, 1982), pp.85-113. Reprinted in Modern Critical Interpretations series, Harold Bloom (ed.), Genesis (New York: Chelsea House, 1986), pp.87-109.

"Numbers" and "Jonah," in The Literary Guide to the Bible ed. By R. Alter and F. Kermode (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 78-91, 234-243.

"’Knowing Good and Evil’: a Literary Analysis of the Court History in 2 Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings 1-2," Journal of Biblical Literature 10 (1990), pp. 40-65

"Biblical Imagery in Robert Lowell’s ‘Children of Light,’" Hiromu Shimizu Festschrift (Kyoto, 1990), pp. 1-11.

"’Who Can Stand Before YHWH, This Holy God?’: a Reading of 1 Samuel 1-15," Prooftexts 11 (1991), pp. 1-25