An Introduction to Early Judaism
An Introduction to Early Judaism

An Introduction to Early Judaism

by James C. VanderKam

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Pages 234
Publisher Eerdmans
Published 2000
ISBN-13 9780802846419
A fascinating survey of Jewish history—from Persia to Masada.

James C. VanderKam, one of today’s most respected scholars of biblical history and the Dead Sea Scrolls, here offers a superb new introduction to early Judaism. Based on the best, most recent archaeological research, this illustrated volume explores the history of Judaism during the Second Temple period (516 B.C.E.–70 C.E.), describing the body of Jewish literature written during these centuries and the most important groups, institutions, and practices of the time. Particularly interesting are VanderKam’s depiction of events associated with Masada and the Kokhba revolt, and his commentary on texts unearthed in places like Elephantine, Egypt, and Qumran. Scholarly yet written in the same accessible style as VanderKam’s widely praised Dead Sea Scrolls Today, this volume is the finest introduction to early Judaism available.


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Professor VanderKam has written an introductory book that follows the format of hisprevious introduction to the Qumran writings, published also by Eerdmans. The presentwork focuses almost completely on the complex world of early Judaism, ranging from thereturn from exile to the great revolt of 70 C.E. and the subsequent destruction of thetemple, although there is also a small excursus on the Bar Kokhba revolt.The book is divided in three main sections. The first (“The Time of the Second Temple”)gives a general view of the history of the period, mainly on the basis of the writings ofFlavius Josephus. Three temporal divisions are presented—Persian period, Hellenisticperiod, and Roman period—which makes the book useful in the classroom but alsomisleads a bit, since the historical transition between the Persian and the Hellenisticperiods seems to have been much smoother than previously thought. The newMacedonian overlords apparently continued many of the institutions of the PersianEmpire. Moreover, the hellenization of the East had begun before the effective arrival ofAlexander and his generals. Despite these small points, the overview that the bookprovides is quite clear and instructive for both the nonspecialist scholar and the collegestudent.The second section of the book deals with the literature of the period. [Full Review]