Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah, 2nd ed. (2005)

George W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction (2nd ed.)

This book is a textbook on (mostly) non-canonical Jewish writings from the Hellenistic and Roman periods (i.e., the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, and the DSS). The Introduction sets forth his interpretive paradigm (he wants to explicate the texts’ internal stories and logic) and contains a brief overview of the problems with the terms apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. The Prologue is a brief overview of Israelite and Judahite history from the sack of Samaria under Shalmaneser V in 722 BCE and the sack of Jerusalem in 586, through Cyrus’ decree in 538, the return from exile, and the establishment of the Jewish diaspora.

Chapter 1, “Tales of the Dispersion,” covers texts written by Jews in the Babylonian and Assyrian diaspora. It includes Daniel 1-6, the additions to Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men), 1 Esdras 3-4 (the Story of Darius’ Bodyguards), Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.

Chapter 2, “Palestine in the Wake of Alexander the Great,” gives a summary of the foreign powers who ruled over Palestine from the Persian period through the Hellenistic period. The chapter then examines the Book of the Heavenly Luminaries (1 Enoch 72-82), the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36), and Sirach. This chapter also discusses apocalypticism in 1 Enoch.

Chapter 3, “Reform—Repression—Revolt,” summarizes the events in Palestine from 198 BCE (when Antiochus III defeated the Ptolemies) through the end of the Hasmonean revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164. In his survey of texts from the period, Nickelsburg discusses the apocalyptic responses to Antiochus IV and the war in Palestine: Jubilees, the Testament of Moses, Daniel 7-12, and 1 Enoch 83-90 (the Animal Vision).

Chapter 4, “The Hasmoneans and Their Opponents,” covers the rulership of the Hasmonean period and the Hasmoneans’ relations with the Seleucids and Romans. The texts from this period are Baruch, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, and the Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 92-105). Nickelsburg also outlines the literary development of 1 Enoch as it stands today.

Chapter 5, “The People at Qumran and Their Predecessors,” covers the major works among the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Damascus Document; the pesharim to Habakkuk, Psalms, Nahum, and Isaiah; “three thematic exegetical texts” (132), viz. 1QFlorilegium, 11QMelchizedek, and 4QTestimonia; the Thanksgiving Hymns (1QHab and 4QH); the Community Rule; the War Scroll; 4QMMT; the Rule of the Congregation (1QSa); the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice; the Temple Scroll; Aramaic Levi; the non-canonical psalms in 11QPsa; 4QInstruction; the Genesis Apocryphon; and The New Jerusalem. This chapter is by far the longest in the book.

Chapter 6, “Israel in Egypt,” starts with a brief discussion of the Jewish Diaspora in Egypt, then covers the major Jewish texts from Hellenistic Egypt: the LXX, book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles, the Letter of Aristeas, 3 Maccabees, the Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Philo’s writings, and 2 Enoch.

Chapter 7, “The Romans and the House of Herod,” gives a significant amount of space to the leadership of Judea under Roman rule, namely Herod the Great and his heirs. The texts from this period are the Psalms of Solomon, the revisions of the Testament of Moses, 1 Enoch 37-71 (the Similitudes of Enoch), and 4 Maccabees.

Chapter 8, “Revolt—Destruction—Reconstruction,” deals with the period between the death of Herod Agrippa I (44 CE) and the end of the Jewish War in 70 CE. Reactions to the events of 70 are the Book of Biblical Antiquities (Pseudo-Philo) and the apocalypses 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The chapter also covers the life and writings of Josephus.

Chapter 9, “Texts of Disputed Provenance,” examines the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Testament of Job, the Testament of Abraham, the Greek and Latin Lives of Adam and Eve, Joseph and Aseneth, and the Prayer of Manasseh. Each of these text have only been preserved in Christian editions, and so it is difficult to date them and to determine which parts of the texts are Christian in origin and which are Jewish.

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