Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Vol. 2: The Jewish Sages and Their Literature

By Hwang, Jin K. | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Vol. 2: The Jewish Sages and Their Literature


Hwang, Jin K., Hebrew Studies Journal


JUDAISM OF THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD. VOL. 2: THE JEWISH SAGES AND THEIR LITERATURE. By David Flusser. Translated from the Hebrew by Azzan Yadin. Pp. x + 380. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009. Cloth, $42.00.

This book is a collection of twenty-six essays written by David Flusser. It was originally published in Hebrew by Hebrew University Magnes Press and Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Press in 2002 and is now translated for English readers.

In the book, Flusser provides many indispensable insights on Second Temple Judaism based on his careful research of biblical, rabbinic, Jewish-Hellenistic, Qumran, early Christian, and Greco-Roman literature and of some of the Jewish liturgical practices that have continued even today (e.g., prayers and synagogue benedictions). Taking the New Testament and early Christian literature as valuable historical sources, along with other Jewish writings, for understanding Judaism in the Second Temple period (see especially in chaps. 2, 7-9, 17-18), Flusser differentiates himself from other scholars who tend to discredit their significance in their study of Second Temple Judaism.

Throughout the book, Flusser quite impressively uncovers the earlier sources belonging to the Second Temple period from the various texts written and/or compiled after the destruction of the Second Temple in order to articulate the commonalities and variations within the Jewish understanding of a specific topic during the Second Temple period.

In chapter 2, for example, Flusser most clearly and comprehensively demonstrates both the unity and the diversity of Second Temple Judaism on nine important themes (purification, divine providence, the oral torah, peshat and derash, the Temple, prayer, messianism, eschatological seers, and heavenly beings). Since he understands Second Temple Judaism as represented by and reconstructed from multiple historical sources that had often been influenced by the worldviews of particular Jewish religious or social groups, it can hardly be a monolithic entity but rather a multi-faceted one (p. 8).

In the remaining chapters, Flusser also pays careful attention to the different expressions when a common idea appears in the various Jewish and early Christian texts, which were largely Jewish by nature. But he tries to keep a balanced stance in assessing the possibility of their interdependence; a parallel idea attested to in more than two different texts that are supported by different groups, after all, may not necessarily indicate one text's dependence on another (see, for instance, his conclusion on the nonliteral midrash shared by Philo and Qumranists, p. 20) while it may at times indeed be the case (see especially his discussion on the call to worship God alone attested to by Jesus' sayings in the Gospel tradition and the Temple benediction, pp. …

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