It is unfortunate that Christian scholars of the Old Testament have chosen to call all or part of the period of Jewish history which begins with the return from exile by the title of 'SpU+00E-Judenthum', 'Bas-Judaisme' or 'Late Judaism'. They inevitably imply thereby that Judaism was about to pass away, whereas in fact it had just come into existence+ADs- and that its passing was preceded by a decline in stature, whereas the key-note of the period is the attempt to weave the teaching of the prophets into the life of the people. It would be just as accurate to describe the Elizabethan Age as 'Bas Moyen-age', or the early north-Italian renascence as 'spU+00E-Lombardisch'. Bad history cannot be the foundation for good theology.
This attitude to the period arises from their natural desire to show that Christianity is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, and in God's covenant with the Children of Israel. And it has been traditionally regarded as a necessary corollary to this belief to present the Church as the only legitimate successor to the grandeur of the prophets and the responsibilities of the covenant. Since, in this view, all that was of permanent value in Jewish history was soon to pass to the credit of the Christian Church, this period following the return is automatically, if unconsciously, looked at through spectacles which focus the sight only on evidence for the decline and passing of the spiritual authority of Judaism.
To such scholars loyalty to prophetic religion has to be equated with exclusiveness, and concern for Torah with superficiality and legalism. The Judaism of Palestine has to be sharply distinguished from that of the Diaspora, and the universalism inherent in the religion of Jewry has to be confined to the dispersed element in the people. One strange result of these presuppositions is that the literature of the period cannot be seen as a whole, and as the natural product of the diversity of interests and opinions which mark any dynamic society. All that is good in it has to be treated as an almost individual and isolated reaction against what is assumed to be the obscurantism of the overwhelming majority. The main item of interest during these centuries has to be found in the growth of belief in a personal and supernatural messiah, and other aspects have to be reduced in stature or relegated to the background. Just at the first moment in Jewish history when Jews set as their goal the teaching of prophetic ideals and conduct to the whole people, it is proclaimed . . .