Jonathan A. Goldstein (1929-2004)

Professor Emeritus, History and Classics

A gentle man and a great scholar, Jonathan Goldstein spent almost his entire career as a professor of history and classics at the University of Iowa. He was the author of five important books. I Maccabees and II Maccabees provide a new translation and commentary of these two books in the Old Testament apocrypha for the Anchor Bible reference library.

Throughout his career Jonathan was interested in how the ancient peoples reconciled their religious beliefs with historical realities. He taught this to students by encouraging them to read the original sources in translation (often his own). In the teaching of classical languages he preferred to emphasize the social rather than the military history, and to treat the textual puzzles of such texts as Tacitus’s Germania, rather than describe war and battles. In larger history courses, although preferring the non-military topics, he felt he must also teach military matters, but did so with particular emphasis on movements of revolution and resistance. He was an expert on the rebellion of the Hasmoneans against Antiochus recorded in the books of the Maccabees and celebrated at the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. From his earliest article, “The Syriac Bill of Sale from Dura-Europos” to his 1995 article, “The Judaism of the Synagogues (with a focus on Dura-Europos).” Jonathan maintained a wide-ranging interest in uncovering religious interactions not only from the writings of the ancient peoples in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, but from the archaeological remains. His final book, Peoples of an Almighty God, treats the Israelites, Babylonians, and Egyptians, as well as Zoroastrians, Iranians, and Persians under Alexander the Great. 

Sources: Constance H. Berman, APA Newsletter (December 2004) 12-13; WhAm 59 (2005) 1737-8; DAS 8.

Black and white portrait of Jonathan Goldstein