Have we learned nothing about Second Temple Judaism since before World War I?
February 22, 2016
I am concerned about how many reviewers are glowing about this set as the way into the time of Jesus. As a professor of New Testament and a specialist in Second Temple Period Judaism, I simply have to say, "no." This is an attractive and affordable edition of a "classic" work (hence the high marks there), but the work was completed a decade before World War I. Have we learned nothing about Second Temple Period Judaism in the century (plus) since Schurer wrote this? The Dead Sea Scrolls, that library of Jewish texts apparently used and hidden by the Qumran community (and quite likely representing a branch of the Essenes) would only be discovered forty-some years after Schurer died. Archaeology of the region has made significant advances in the century since Schurer. The study of ancient Judaism itself has been revolutionized by thinking of it no longer as the legalistic foil to Christianity, but as a religion of grace and response (a re-thinking of Judaism and the old stereotype motivated not least by the fact of the Holocaust).
I'm not advising against buying this set; I am advising against approaching it as if, in the 21st century, it is still the go-to resource for the study of "the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus." Far better: An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism by Lester Grabbe; Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview, edited by John Collins and Daniel Harlow; Greeks, Romans, Jews by James Newsome. Perhaps best (though costlier): The Cambridge History of Judaism (volumes 2 and 3 will cover this period well).
Note: there is a grossly overpriced revised edition of this available. I wouldn't recommend that either, in large measure because you could get the two Cambridge volumes for less, and they'd be far better.
This is a wonderful look into the history leading up to the world into which Christ was born. It has helped to increase my understanding and perception of why and how the people reacted to Jesus' teaching. These books are sturdy and well-made to last for generations.
Cover-to-cover, these wonderful books are filled with easy to read and understand Jewish history in the time of Jesus. I definitely recommend to anyone who is a serious student of God's word. Thank you for making them so affordable even to a grandma on a very limited budget!
I purchased these as a gift for my pastor and he loves them. Thorough history of individual people as well as reference and cross-references. Great history volume set of books and priced at a great deal.