Book Review: The Logos “Second Temple Judaism Studies” Collection

Logos Bible Software has been publishing a number of important books as a part of the digital library. The Second Temple Judaism Studies Collection collects seven books published by Sheffield Academic Press between 1983 and 2009 covers a wide range of topics of interest in the Second Temple Period. These are all part of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement series and are all either revised dissertations or collections of essays drawn from SBL study groups. The original hardback editions of these books are now out of print although a few have been re-printed in paperback and are available as eBooks on Google Books. Some, however, no longer available and often sell for inflated prices (a hardcover copy of Schams or Davies’s The Damascus Covenant, for example, are offered on Amazon for more than $150).

second-temple-judaism-studies-collectionWilliam M. Schniedewind, Word of God in Transition: From Prophet to Exegete in the Second Temple Period (JSOTSup 197; 1995, 275 pages). This book is a revision of Schniedewind’s Brandeis doctoral dissertation (1992). The topic certainly is influenced by Schniedewind mentor, Michael Fishbane, who has contributed several monographs on the interpretation of scripture within the canon. This study examines the transition from the traditional prophet to a “new kind of prophet” in the post-exilic period who is an inspired interpreter rather than a “classic prophet” (p. 11). The Chronicler, for example, receives traditions and interprets them in a new context. This shift on what the “word of God” meant in the Second Temple Period is reflected in the title of the book. The book of Chronicles is more like an exegete than a prophet, paving the way for the scribes and other experts in the law. [NB: that the Logos website incorrectly identifies this as a 2009 publication. That refers to the paperback reprint from Bloomsbury T&T Clark not the original publication of the book.]

Christine Schams, Jewish Scribes in the Second Temple Period (JSOTSup 291; 1998, 288 pages). Like Schniedewind, this revision of Schams’s D.Phil thesis is concerned with the development of the scribe in the Second Temple Period. She surveys literary evidence from the Persian period (including bullae), the Hellenistic period, and the Roman Period on the role of the scribes in society. What is remarkable is the silence of these texts; there are far fewer references to scribes than we might have expected. Neither Josephus or Philo refer to scribes as an important role in Jewish society. Scribes are not mentioned in The Letter of Aristeas or in pagan descriptions of Jewish society, and there is little in the Dead Sea Scrolls concerning the scribe. Yet in the New Testament scribes appear to be prominent members of society. She offers a bewildering number of possible explanations for the lace of reference to scribes outside of the New Testament (ch. 3).  Her fourth chapter provides a comprehensive definition of the role of scribe in each of the periods.

qumran-between-the-old-and-new-testamentsFrederick H. Cryer, Thomas L. Thompson, editors. Qumran between the Old and New Testaments (JSOTSup 290; 1998, 2009, 398 pages).  This book collects papers from the 1995 International Scandinavian Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran, sponsored by the University of Copenhagen. Originally published in hardback in 1998, T&T Clark issued a less expensive paperback in 2009. The collection includes several excellent essays from noted Scrolls scholars Florentiono Garcia Martinez, Emmanuel Tov, Harmut Stegmann and Ben Zion Wacholder as well as scholars specializing in the Hebrew Bible, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson and Fred Cryer. I was particularly interested in Sarianna Metso’s article on “The Use of Old Testament Quotations in the Qumran Community Rule” since I did some work on that text for my dissertation. Metso is interested in the redactions of 1QS more than the hermenutical strategies of citations and allusions.

Raymond Jacques Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms: The Prophetic Liturgy of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (JSOTSup 118; 1991, 311 pages). Tournay’s monograph concerns the origin and structure of the Psalms as a collection. He proposes to study the Psalms collection by studying the psalms as the product of levitical singers in the Second Temple Period, but also giving full weight to the prophetic dimension usually ignored by commentators on the Psalms (p. 30). This is similar to David Mitchell’s thesis in his The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms (JSOTSup 252. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997). Tournay does not want to diminish the worship aspect of the Psalms, but he cannot ignore the prophetic aspects. He first argues that the Levitical singers gradually replaced the classic prophet as the “authentic cultic prophets” who encountered God and delivered his word (ch. 1-3). He then surveys theophany narratives in the Psalms (ch. 4-8) before moving to oracles in the Psalms (ch. 9-13). Most would expect this to be heavily weighted toward messianic expectations, but Tournay only includes a single chapter on messianic Psalms. This makes sense, if the levitical singers were functioning like prophets, since prophets did not always prophecy only concerning the messianic age. In his short conclusion, Tournay teases the reader by pointing out that the prophetic dimension in the psalms was recognized by two Second Temple messianic movements, Qumran and Christianity.

STP Vol 2Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Richards, editors. Second Temple Studies, Volume 2: Temple and Community in the Persian Period (JSOTSup 175; 1994, 2009, 175 pages). Many of the essays in this collection were a part of the 1991 International SBL symposium on “The Temple in the Persian Period.”  Since the collection limits itself to the Persian period all of the articles focus on the later books of the Hebrew Bible. The section on the temple is almost entirely drawn from the prophets (Carroll on the Prophets, Baltzer on Second Isaiah, Clines on Haggai, and Marinkovic on Zech 1-8).  The second section focuses on the community of the Persian period, with essays on Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Two articles (Smith–Carpenter; Eskenazi and Judd) deal with the issue of mixed marriage in Ezra and Nehemiah. Lester Grabbe’s contribution on the Mission of Ezra summarizes some of his views developed elsewhere.

Philip R. Davies, John M. Halligan, editors. Second Temple Studies, Volume 3: Studies in Politics, Class and Material Culture (JSOTSup 340; 2002, 2009, 340 pages). As sequel to Eskenazi and Richards, this collection of essays comes out of the SBL Sociology of the Second Temple study group. Rather than the Person period, the essays in this collection focus on the Achaemenid era (two essays), the Hellenistic period(s) (five essays) and the Hasmonean dynasty (three essays). Richard Horsely contributes an article on Ben Sira and the Sociology of the Second Temple (co-written by Patrick Tiller) and a second article on applying “historical sociology” to the expansion of Hasmonean rule in Galilee. Lester Grabbe aslo has two articles, the first on Hellenization, interacting with Martin Hengel, and a second contribution concerning the Samaritans in the Hasmonean period. One of the more interesting articles is by Robert Doran, on “Jewish Education in the Seleucid Period.” That anything can be known about education in this period is something of an open question, but Doran uses the text of Ben Sira and Ezekiel the Tragedian to draw some conclusions about what might have passed for education in the Jerusalem Gymnasium in the pre-Hasmonean period.

the-damascus-covenantPhilip R. Davies. The Damascus Covenant: An Interpretation of the “Damascus Document” (JSOTSup 25; 1983, 348 pages). The oldest book in this collection is focused on the Damascus Document (CD), a foundational text for the Essenes and is among the more important texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Document was discovered in the early twentieth century in the Cairo Geniza and was not immediately recognized as an Essene text (it was often referred to as a “Zadokite” document). Even though much has happened in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Davies book on the Damascus Document is still helpful, especially his detailed literature survey of scholarship on the CD up to the early 1980s.

Conclusion. The books in this collection are a somewhat odd assortment, but they are all valuable contributions to the study of the Second Temple Period. A serious college, university, or seminary ought to own copies of these books.  They may not be the types of books the “average reader” will buy since a dissertation tends to be a challenging read. But anyone working in the Second Temple period ought to consider adding one or all of these books to their library.

My initial thought when I saw the price of these books is that they were too expensive. I pointed out to the marketing people at Logos that there were two books that were over-priced because they were out of print and available far less expensively at Google books, they responded but getting lowering the package price considerably. The collection is now available for 249.95, averaging about $35 per book.  This is in line with the cost of the books via Google Books.

Logos has a number of promotions available to professors and students to reduce the cost of the collection. In addition, these books are formatted to the Logos library, so that all of the tools of Logos can be used with them, including robust note-taking, highlighting, and copy and paste functions that simply do not exist in the Google Books format. I have purchased a few dissertations from Google Books, they have little more functionality than reading a PDF.

Logos is simply a superior reading platform to Google or Kindle. For me, the fact that Logos places footnotes at the bottom of the page for downloaded books makes Logos a superior reading tool. On the desktop version of Logos, footnotes are clickable links, but the note floats in a window above the text and can be copied like any other text. At this time, the Logos App does not permit copying footnotes.

Thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with a review copy of these books. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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