Posted in Obituaries

David M. Goodblatt, 1942-2019

David M. Goodblatt, 1942-2019 Posted on January 4, 2020

Prof. David M. Goodblatt (December 20, 1942 – September 25, 2019) received his A.B. from Harvard in 1963, rabbinic ordination and an M.H.L. from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1966, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in 1972. His doctoral advisor was Jacob Neusner. Goodblatt was expert on the history of Jews and Judaism in late antiquity. He taught at the University of Haifa and the University of Maryland, before moving in 1988 to an endowed chair in Judaic Studies at the University of California at San Diego where he spent the remainder of his career, retiring in 2017. He is best known for his three books:  Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia (Leiden, 1975), The Monarchic Principle: Studies in Jewish Self-government in Antiquity (Tübingen, 1994); and Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism (Cambridge, 2006). He also authored important articles, some of which are available from his website He was also an elected member of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Goodblatt’s work is characterized by deep erudition and penetrating analysis. He made a name for himself with his study of Rabbinic Instruction, the first to cast doubt on the historicity of Talmudic and Geonic traditions  about the alleged institutionalization of rabbinic academies. His work was also characterized by a comparative focus and contextual awareness.  Goodblatt was a scholar of the first rank and will be sorely missed by his family and friends.


Shaye Cohen 
Harvard University