Early Judaism and Modern Culture: Early Jewish Literature and Theology

Early Judaism and Modern Culture: Early Jewish Literature and Theology

Early Judaism and Modern Culture: Early Jewish Literature and Theology

Early Judaism and Modern Culture: Early Jewish Literature and Theology


Gerbern Oegema has long been drawn to the noncanonical literature of early Judaism -- literature written between 300 b.c.e. and 200 c.e. These works, many of which have been lost, forgotten, and rediscovered, are now being studied with ever-increasing enthusiasm by scholars and students alike.

Although much recent attention has been given to the literary and historical merits of the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and other deutero- and extracanonical writings, Early Judaism and Modern Culture shows that it is also important to study these literary works from a theological perspective. To that end, Oegema considers the reception of early Jewish writings throughout history and identifies their theological contributions to many issues of perennial importance: ethics, politics, gender relations, interreligious dialogue, and more. Oegema demonstrates decisively that these books -- more than merely objects of academic curiosity -- have real theological and cultural relevance for churches, synagogues, and society at large today.


Ever since reading Professor Bruce M. Metzger’s the Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), which was published in the year in which I began my studies at the Reformed Theological Faculty of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, I have been intrigued by everything labelled “noncanonical.” Since completing my degrees in New Testament and Jewish Studies in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Tübingen I have spent most of my research time and energy in the field of the Pseudepigrapha. I have taught Hebrew Bible, Early Judaism, New Testament, and Rabbinic Judaism in Amsterdam, Berlin, Münster, Tübingen, and now in Montreal, and everywhere I met an increasing number of young and enthusiastic students, undergraduates and graduates alike, who shared my fascination with all things noncanonical.

In all my years of moving back and forth among Hebrew Bible, Early Judaism, and Christian Origins, as well as between teaching in universities and lecturing and preaching in churches and synagogues, I always came back to these fascinating books “in between,” lost, forgotten, and found again. Today they often seem to possess more powers of attraction than the

1. See Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament; and esp. Oegema, “Kanon und Apokalyptik.”

2. See Charlesworth, Lichtenberger, and Oegema, eds., Qumran-Messianism; Lichtenberger and Oegema, eds., Jüdischen Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit in ihrem antikjüdischen und neutestamentlichen Kontext; Henderson and Oegema, eds., The Changing Face of Judaism, Christianity and Other Greco-Roman Religions in Antiquity; Lichtenberger and Oegema, eds., Supplementa zu den Jüdischen Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit I-III.

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