18 March 2009

An Introduction to Early Judaism

James C. VanderKam, An Introduction to Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).

Though I do not wish to offer a full review of the book at this time, I wanted to give my 1.5 cents worth of recommendation for this particular volume. James VanderKam has proven himself one of the foremost authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the vast literature of Second Temple Judaism - two areas which typically overwhelm the average research student and biblical scholar.

Here in this accessible volume (easy to follow, 234 pages), VanderKam provides a succinct overview of the sea of literature and lays the foundation to eliminate the enormous task of getting a hold of the literature from the Second Temple period. It is helpful (especially trying to cut through for the specific task of research) to have a resource which provides a simple and straightforward explanation of the whos, whats and wheres of documents which are filled with people, places and symbols quite foreign to most everything else you learn in church and typical coursework for New Testament studies.

But it remains difficult to overestimate the importance of this literature, as it provides the closest and clearest information of how Judaism interpreted their own Scriptures at the time when the Christian movement emerged. This book is a wonderful introduction and would be a great addition to an introduction or survey course.

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