Jacques Berlinerblau

Director and Professor of Jewish Civilization

jacques hsPh.D, 1999, Sociology, The New School for Social Research

Ph.D, 1991, Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, New York University

Jacques Berlinerblau holds separate doctorates in ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, and in Sociology. He is Professor and Director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging from the composition of the Hebrew Bible, to the sociology of heresy, to modern Jewish intellectuals, to African-American and Jewish-American relations, to the history of American secularism to the crisis of college pedagogy, and the plight of the Humanities. His articles on these and other subjects have appeared in Biblica, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Semeia, Biblical Interpretation, Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, Hebrew Studies, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Philip Roth Studies, and History of Religions.

He has published seven books, the most recent being Campus Confidential: How College Works, Or Doesn't, For Professors, Parents, and Students (Melville House). In 2012 he published How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His previous works include Thumpin' It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today's Presidential Politics, which was released in January 2008 (Westminster John Knox), Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibility of American Intellectuals (Rutgers University Press) and The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously (Cambridge University Press).

Follow Jacques Berlinerblau on twitter at @berlinerblau.

View Jacques Berlinerblau's GUFaculty360 profile.

Selected Publications


Melville House (2017)

Chances are distressingly high that an American undergraduate—even one attending an elite institution—will be taught mostly by overworked and underpaid adjunct professors and graduate students who have received no teacher training and whose careers are haunted by the “publish or perish” ethos of modern Academe. This may suit the university’s bottom line, but does it really constitute a quality education for their students?

Campus Confidential is an irreverent and incisive professor’s-eye view on college today, in which Jacques Berlinerblau tells us what so many professors are thinking but so few are saying.

From a close look at this new professoriate and how to get the best out of it, to learning how to survive bare-knuckle interdepartmental politics, to valuable tips on how to evaluate and apply to colleges in the first place, Berlinerblau offers a master class on how colleges can operate and improve themselves, and how potential students and their parents can make an informed decision on which to attend.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012)

Weary of religious conservatives urging "defense of marriage" and atheist polemicists decrying the crimes of religion? Sick of pundits who want only to recast American life in their own image? Americans are stuck in an all-or-nothing landscape for religion in public life. What are reasonable citizens to do?

Seen as godless by the religious and weak by the atheists, secularism mostly has been misunderstood. In How to Be Secular, Berlinerblau argues for a return to America's hard-won secular tradition; the best way to protect religious diversity and freedom lies in keeping an eye on the encroachment of each into the other.

Berlinerblau passionately defends the virtues of secularism, reminds us what it is and what it can protect, and urges us to mobilize around its cause, which is for all Americans to continue to enjoy freedom for--and from--religion. This is an urgent wake-up call for progressives in and out of all faiths.


Westminister John Knox Press (2007)

In one of the most witty and insightful books yet to explore the fascinating relationship between the Bible and American politics, Georgetown professor Jacques Berlinerblau looks at: the recent history of how Scripture has influenced public policy debates about the environment, abortion, stem-cell research, and foreign policy; how recent U.S. presidents have employed the Bible; plus how each of the major candidates in the 2008 presidential elections is using and often misusing the Bible in his or her race for the White House.

Politicians, especially those seeking the presidency, must develop a good Scripture game, as Berlinerblau calls it. However, "It is a cynical business, politics is. It becomes no less so when public servants and interest groups get it into their heads that God Himself provided proof texts for their policy initiatives two thousand years ago. It is a peculiarity of the Good Book that it elicits in its readers the strong conviction that it unequivocally supports their strongest convictions."


Cambridge University Press (2005)

Today's secularists too often have very little accurate knowledge about religion, and even less desire to learn. This is problematic insofar as their sense of self is constructed in opposition to religion. Above all, the secularist is not a Jew, is not a Christian, not a Muslim, and so on. But is it intellectually responsible to define one's identity against something that one does not understand? And what happens when these secularists weigh in on contentious political issues, blind to the religious back-story or concerns that inevitably inform these debates?
In The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously Jacques Berlinerblau suggests that atheists and agnostics must take stock of that which they so adamantly oppose. Defiantly maintaining a shallow understanding of religion, he argues, is not a politically prudent strategy in this day and age. But this book is no less critical of many believers, who--Berlinerblau contends--need to emancipate themselves from ways of thinking about their faith that are dangerously simplistic, irrational and outdated. Exploring the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, from the perspective of a specialist, nonbeliever, and critic of the academic religious studies establishment, Berlinerblau begins by offering a provocative answer to the question of "who wrote the Bible?" The very peculiar way in which this text was composed provides a key to understanding its unique power (and vulnerability) in the modern public sphere. In separate chapters, he looks at how the sparse and contradictory words of Scripture are invoked in contemporary disputes about Jewish intermarriage and homosexuality in the Christian world. Finally, he examines ways in which the Qur'an might be subject to the types of secular interpretation advocated throughout this book. Cumulatively, this book is a first attempt to reinvigorate an estimable secular, intellectual tradition, albeit one that is currently experiencing a moment of crisis.


Blacks and Jews in America (JCIV 015)

Philip Roth: Fiction About Fiction (INAF 349, JCIV 349)

Jewish American Literature (ENGL 216, JCIV 215)

American Secularism (GOVT 216, JCIV 216)