Recommended Books on the Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus

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Posts 204
Richard J. Ward | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Jun 30 2016 1:49 PM

Mobile Ed: NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus is going to ship on 7/14/2016. It’s currently $179.99. What are some good introductory level books that cover the same topic?

Posts 1523
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 2:11 PM

I was surprised by how much I learned from John Meier's books on Jesus.

https://www.logos.com/product/5748/a-marginal-jew-rethinking-the-historical-jesus

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Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 2:15 PM

I actually misread your request....John Meier is not introductory material. Sorry. Good stuff though! :)

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 2:15 PM

Although this may be a bit more detailed than introductory A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (5 vols.)

Had this one as a text in Seminary. Thought it was a good survey of the Intertestamental Period Backgrounds of Early Christianity 

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DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 2:26 PM

Technically, you shouldn't find any on the same topic ... rabbis or a 'jewish context'.  You have your before-Jesus data, and you have your after-Jesus data ... well after. Most books Mishnah-ize Jesus or at least 'the jews', whoever they might be.  But except for archaeology, it's mainly speculation.

The best book with hard data is 'Galilee in the Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods' by Flensy and Strange. (I'd post the Logos.com ref but on my ipad).   Everything from road systems, to village life, to morbidity rates.

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 5:42 PM

Denise:
The best book with hard data is 'Galilee in the Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods' by Flensy and Strange. (I'd post the Logos.com ref but on my ipad).   Everything from road systems, to village life, to morbidity rates.

https://www.logos.com/product/49592/galilee-in-the-late-second-temple-and-mishnaic-periods-volume-1-life-culture-and-society

Please use descriptive thread titles to attract helpful posts & not waste others' time. Thanks!

Posts 1749
Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 30 2016 8:16 PM

Richard J. Ward:
Mobile Ed: NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus ...
What are some good introductory level books that cover the same topic?

The primary source for info on the Jewish context of Jesus' life is the literature of the period leading up to Jesus' time, so search for "Second Temple".

For introductory material:

Not really introductory, but one of the best single volumes you could buy to give you background would be:

It contains a couple of hundred pages before the A-Z section, essays that give you the background on the history, land, diaspora, Scriptures, styles of interpretation, literature, archaeology, and religion of the world into which Jesus came. If you can only buy one resource to cover this area, this should be the one.

Posts 204
Richard J. Ward | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 12:48 AM

Thanks to all of you for the recommendations. 

Posts 176
Rob | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 2:52 AM

A bit tangential, the recently departed Kenneth Bailey has some books in Logos that may also be of interest.

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mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 4:08 PM

Can't say when this will be out, but it's a goldmine.

https://www.logos.com/product/30801/commentary-on-the-new-testament-from-the-talmud-and-midrash 

The mind of man is the mill of God, not to grind chaff, but wheat. Thomas Manton | Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow. Richard Baxter

Posts 204
Richard J. Ward | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 5:12 PM

Nice one, MAB. I pre-ordered it.

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Justin Gatlin | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 8:21 PM

Easy to read and engaging https://www.logos.com/product/39623/jewish-backgrounds-of-the-new-testament  /  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008SARAVG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 for some reviews.

Also, NT Wright's Christian Origins ad the Question of God will pay back their length. 

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Robyn VH. | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 1 2016 10:43 PM

Thanks MAB I have also placed a pre order

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jul 2 2016 3:38 AM

Hello Richard, I would only suggest one more thing in addition to reading the kind of resources that have been suggested already: read primary sources! At the end of the day, any presentation of historical background information is a distillation and interpretation of the ancient writings of the period that have survived. I have found that it is quite a different experience to read a book that refers to primary sources (for instance, Josephus) that I had not read already and the kind of appreciation of the history of the time that one gains by reading the "originals". Of course, reading primary sources is a bit like reading the Bible for the first time: one can fail to understand or appreciate correctly what goes on (this is where the other books become useful). But the primary sources will transport you in that time in a way that secondary sources can't (imagine trying to know the Bible by reading a book on it without having read it). 

Bottom-line: if you haven't already, read Josephus, read Jewish apocryphal works (OTP series), read Dead Sea scrolls. Read the short prefaces/introductions that give you a bit of introduction and overview. You will learn TONS. You will also be in a better position to read other books (secondary sources sometimes reflect interpretations that not all would agree on). And it will be valuable for biblical studies in many, many ways. 

This is not a weekend project. It will take time. But it is a worthwhile investment of time and effort.

Posts 204
Richard J. Ward | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jul 2 2016 3:24 PM

Good point, Francis. Do you have any suggestions on what translation or Logos collection to start with for the DSS?

Posts 1749
Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jul 2 2016 6:25 PM

Richard J. Ward:
Good point, Francis. Do you have any suggestions on what translation or Logos collection to start with for the DSS?

I'm not Francis, but I agree with him. :-)

If you've never read the Apocrypha of the OT (the deutero-canonical books in the Roman Catholic Bible), start there. You may have them in one of your Bibles in Logos already. I use the NRSV. These were the most popular Jewish books at the time the LXX was translated.

After that, tackle the Pseudepigrapha of the OT. It's a large collection that will present you with some very different ways of thinking. The books that retell Biblical stories (like Jubilees) will give you some insight into how they were understanding the Biblical narrative. Others like 1 Enoch will give you an idea of how much angels and demons were dominating their thinking during this period. The older translation by R H Charles is okay if you can't afford the newer one by Charlesworth.

Once you've digested those, you're ready to approach the Dead Sea Scrolls. For your purposes, you can ignore the copies of Bible scrolls, and concentrate on the sectarian material that will give you insight into how the Essenes were thinking. I used Wise, Abegg, & Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Texts 1 & 7 will get you started, but read them all.

Then tackle Josephus, starting with Antiquities. You may already have the older translation by Whiston in your libraries. Josephus is a bridge person (a Jew explaining his history to non-Jews), but he's also a traitor (trying to convince the Jews to submit to the Romans who are paying him). He'll give you good insight, but you'll soon see his bias. It's still useful to ask why he tells the Biblical story the way he does: Why include this bit? Why leave that bit out? Why invent this bit? Why think this way about that?

Richard, you can see that there is a great deal of reading (and note-taking) to do that well. It took me a couple of years (part time) to work through all of that. Is it worth it? You bet. You can enter into the crowd of people listening to Jesus and hear the various ways that different people in the crowd are hearing him.

(By the way, this assumes already have a good handle on the books of the Old Testament, which are more foundational than the above.)

Hope that helps.

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Richard J. Ward | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jul 2 2016 9:01 PM

Allen, thanks for the super helpful and encouraging input! 

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jul 2 2016 11:15 PM

Richard J. Ward:

Mobile Ed: NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus is going to ship on 7/14/2016. It’s currently $179.99. What are some good introductory level books that cover the same topic?

I really enjoyed The Cosmopolitan World of Jesus. It's scholarly, pretty up-to-date, yet very, very accessible, and cuts through lots of lazy assumptions.

This is my personal Faithlife account. On 1 March 2022, I started working for Faithlife, and have a new 'official' user account. Posts on this account shouldn't be taken as official Faithlife views!

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