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

By Michael E. Stone | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Historiography

Harold W. Attridge

Jews of the Hellenistic and early imperial periods evidenced a lively interest in their past, and the narrative literature of the period which rehearsed one or another aspect of that past was enormous, as the preceding chapters have shown. Certain works stand out from that large narrative corpus as attempts to tell all or part of that past in some systematic, chronologically founded fashion and these works may usefully be treated separately as historiographical narratives. The category remains a rather broad one, including, on the one hand, works which stand in one way or another within the tradition of biblical historiography developed in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Such a work would certainly be 1 Maccabees, which, in its original language, style and theological outlook, continues the biblical tradition. The historical genre also includes a large number of works written in the traditions of Greek historiography, such as 2 Maccabees or the War and A ntiquities of Josephus. Here also stand many works which survive only in fragmentary form and which reflect various types of Hellenistic historical literature, not only the political and military history exemplified by the Maccabean books, but also ethnographic and antiquarian history which was often cultivated in this period for various apologetic, polemical or propagandists ends. Although it is important to recognize the diversity in Hellenistic historical literature, one may still ask in some cases whether a particular work, especially if it survives only in fragmentary form, is really historiographical in the sense described above. Some of the works treated here might be equally well considered as scriptural paraphrases (1 Esdras), exegetical treatises (Demetrius), or even popular romances (Artapanus).


1 Esdras

1 Esdras, which bears this title in the Septuagint, but is designated 3 Esdras in the Vulgate,1 is one work which is not easily classified. It continues

1 The titles of the Ezra literature vary in different traditions. The title 2 Esdras is particularly problematic, since it is used in the English Apocrypha as the title of the Christian redaction of

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