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Post WWII Bible History Jun 24, 2004
Early Judaism and its Modern Interpreters edited by Robert A Kraft, George W.E. Nickelsburg (The Bible and its modern interpreters: Scholars Press) This volume documents the major developments in the study of "early Judaism" (ca. 330 B.C.E. to ca. 138 C.E.) from about the mid-1940s. Because this field of investigation is not as clearly defined or as well established as the areas covered in the other volumes of this trilogy (Hebrew Bible and New Testament), we have included a lengthy introduction that discusses the field itself and current interest in it, new tools and approaches, major topics and problems, and the types of study we feel are needed in the future. The introductory essay was drafted primarily by George Nickelsburg and edited into its current form by Robert Kraft. The bulk of the volume is organized into three major sections. The first deals with "synthetic approaches" to the political, social, and religious history of the period. The original plan was to include in this opening section a major essay on problems of definition, with a focus on Judaism as religion, but that was abandoned and comments on these issues are now included in the introduction. Part 2 focuses on the recent discoveries that have stimulated and enriched the renewed study of early Judaism, from the Dead Sea documents and other written materials to archaeological and numismatic data of relevance. As the introduction points out, the sheer bulk of new materials renders many aspects of the older synthetic treatments obsolete and justifies the need for careful descriptive analysis at various levels before comprehensive new syntheses are attempted. Part 3 surveys work on the literature of early Judaism organized according to different types (form and/or content) of material. The concern here is primarily with the Jewish apocrypha and pseudepigrapha and the writings of Philo and Josephus, although some attention is also given to literary aspects of the Qumran scrolls (which are treated as such in chapter 5). The final chapter of the third part differs somewhat from the earlier ones in that it addresses the question of how the Jewish rabbinic materials, which mostly postdate the chronological limits that we have set for early Judaism, have been used or can be used responsibly in the study of early Judaism. The chapter that had been planned to begin this part, on the languages used by Jews in the Greco-Roman world, had to be omitted (see the general comments in the introduction).