Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus

By Michael E. Stone | Go to book overview

Introduction

Michael E. Stone

From its inception, Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum has been a joint Jewish and Christian endeavour. This is worth considering, for it is essential to the understanding of the project of which the present volume is part. It was not just to advance the cause of mutual understanding by general contacts and interchanges, essential as that aim is; the endeavour had to be jointly Jewish and Christian because learning about this period has developed essentially in two separate (and not always equal) streams.1

The implications are far-reaching for the study of history.2 The understanding and view that we have of Jewish history of the age of the Second Temple are conditioned by these two main factors—the presuppositions of historiography and the character of the sources … Clearly, the nature of the sourves which have been transmitted in both the Jewish and Christian traditions has been determined by the particular varieties of Judaism and Christianity which became “orthodox”, or in other words, which became dominant and survived … The material they preserved … is that which was acceptable through the filter of orthodoxy.’3 In other words, which material actually survived was determined by these two separate later traditions and their tendencies. Moreover, the influence of the later ‘orthodoxies’ was even more pervasive than this, for they determined not only what range of material survived, but also what parts of it were studied by scholars and what questions they posed to it. Jewish scholars tended on the whole to search for documents with resonances in classical rabbinic literarture or, at least, not contrary to it. Christian scholars sought material that illuminated the background of the New Testament, and what is more, some of them highlighted material that could be interpreted to justify their pejorative theological attitudes towards Judaism.

Recently, the distortions caused by theological tendenz have again been forcefully set forth by E. P. Sanders, echoing at many points the late George Foot Moore’s strictures, half-a-century old. Sanders expounded

1 Cf. Compendia 1/1, p. x.

2 Stone, Scriptures, Sects and Visions, p. 49-51.

3Ibid. 53.

-XVII-

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