SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

Discovering Second Temple Literature: The Scriptures and Stories That Shaped Early Judaism

Jewish Publication Society. Nov. 2018. 384p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780827612655. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780827614284. HIST
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Simkovich (Jewish studies, Catholic Theological Union; The Making of Jewish Universalism) finds a gap in Jewish awareness of its heritage, namely, the late second temple period, which she sets out to fill in this latest book that presents a lively and diverse body of folklore, poetry, philosophy, history, commentary, and other works that rivaled the scriptures in authority. Simkovich opens with a history of how these documents came to light, starting in the 19th century, and then turns her attention to what we know about the period in which they were written. Only then does she discuss the various genres and gauges their influence. Her conclusion is that this literature had greater impact on Christian and Hellenistic culture based on Rabbinic Judaism arising from the oral traditions of the Pharisees. She also maintains that writers such as Philo and Josephus argued for a Judaism that became untenable following the Jewish Wars and that some of the literature came from groups who were so isolated they passed from memory.
VERDICT Whether reappropriating a heritage that was almost lost or discovering one readers never knew existed, this work will likely pique the interest of a broad audience.

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