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Wright, Archie T., Brad Embry and Ronald Herms. Early Jewish Literature: An Anthology. 2 Volumes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 728, 256 pp. $125.00, Hb. Link to Eerdmans

This massive anthology collects examples of literature from the Second Temple Period. It goes beyond the standard collection in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. By James Charlesworth, 1983) or the more recent Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1 (ed. Alexander Panayotov, James R. Davila, and Richard Bauckham). By including Josephus, Philo and a wide range of Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Literature provides students with a broad overview of the massive literature of the late Second Temple Period.

The Contents

Each volume has four major units covering a specific genre. One of the editors introduces the unit with a brief overview. Volume 1 begins with Scriptural Texts and Traditions. The editors in include excerpts from Daniel, the additions to Daniel and other Danielic literature found at Qumran, the Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242) and Pseudo-Daniel (extremely fragmentary, 4Q243-245). Although it is common to read Daniel along with the Apocryphal additions, it is unusual to see the fragmentary material from Qumran in the same context. Peter Flint provides the translation for the Dead Sea Scrolls material. This section also has a few extracts from the Great Isaiah Scroll ad three Psalms from Qumran as well as LXX Psalm 151.

The Books of Maccabees and Josephus appear under the heading of “Interpretive History” in the second section of the anthology. The complete text of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are included, but only samples from the four main works of Josephus are included. Steve Mason, one of the foremost Josephus scholars in recent years, wrote introductions for each of Josephus’s works.

The third section covers Romanticized Narrative. This includes a book normally appearing in the Apocrypha, Tobit, as well as the Letter of Aristeas, extracts from Joseph and Aseneth, and the Life of Adam and Eve.

The fourth unit of the anthology collects a number of Dead Sea Scrolls under the heading of Biblical Interpretation and Rewritten Scripture. This includes the Habakkuk pesher (1QpHab), the Melchizedek Scroll (11Q13), the Temple Scroll (11Q19-20) and several others. The section also includes samples from Jubilees and four samples from the writings of Philo.

Volume 2 opens with Wisdom Literature and Legal Texts. It is no surprise to see extracts from Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon, but the editors have selected a number of examples of wisdom literature from Qumran as well as 1 Enoch. Since the editors have put wisdom and legal texts in the same unit, a sample from the Rule of the Community (1QS) with an introduction by Jörg Frey, the Damascus Document (CD) with an introduction by Cecilia Wassen, and “Some Works of the Law” (4QMMT) with an introduction and translation by James Dunn. Since this particular legal document has been used by Dunn and N. T. Wright as background to the Pauline phrase “works of the Law,” Dunn’s introduction to this somewhat controversial document will attract a attention. I think the decision to put wisdom and legal material together was a mistake; the genre are different enough to separate into two sections, allowing for additional legal texts from Qumran.

Under Apocalyptic Literature the editors have lengthy selections from the various sections of 1 Enoch, including the Book of Giants from 4Q23 (and other fragments). Only three of the Sibylline Oracles appear (books 3-5, all complete), along with extracts from Fourth Ezra and the whole of 2 Baruch.  From Qumran, the editors have a portion of the War Scroll and three fragmentary apocalypses (4Q246, 4Q521, 4Q285/11Q14), all introduced and translated by Martin Abegg.

Along with Psalms of Solomon and Odes of Solomon, the unit entitled “Psalms, Hymns, and Prayers” includes several prayers from Qumran, Hodayot (1QHa), Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice (4QShirShab), Songs of the Sage (4Q510, 4Q511), and an example of an incantation (4Q444) and exorcism (4Q560).

The final unit of the anthology covers Testamentary Literature. From the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, this anthology only includes the Testament of Levi; the Testament of Abraham and the Testament of Moses are also included. The final text in this section is The Aramaic Levi Document, often identified as the Aramaic Testament of Levi. The translation provided is based on 4QLevia and the Athos Greek manuscript.

The Introductions

There are introductions for every piece of literature in the anthology. This includes a narrative description of the text summarizing the contents of the whole document even if the word is on printed in full. Following this, the introduction deals with questions of authorship, provenance, date, occasion and a short summary of the textual history, original language, sources and transmission history. These are often extremely tentative due to the nature of most of the literature in the anthology. The author of the introduction then provides a short theology of the book. Each introduction also includes a short reception history of the book. Finally, each introduction concludes with a bibliography divided into two sections: For Further Study and Advanced. These reading lists are not exhaustive and would have been more useful if the texts and translations were moved to their own category.

Following the introduction is a translation of the text. Often these are fresh translations by the author of the unit, although occasionally the editors use a recently published translation. By way of example, I compared Brad Embry’s translation of the Psalms of Solomon (based on the Greek text rather than the Syriac) with R. B. Wright’s translation in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. As can be seen from this sample, the translation is not radically different, perhaps slightly more contemporary.

Psalms of Solomon 1 I shouted to the Lord in my utter oppression, to God during the attack of the sinners. 2 Suddenly a clamor of war was heard in my presence. I said, “He will listen to me because I was full of righteousness.” 3 I considered in my heart that I was full of righteousness, because of my prosperity and the existence of many offspring.4 Their wealth was spread in all the land and their glory unto the ends of the earth. 5 They were exalted unto the stars. They said, “We will never fall.” 6 They became prideful in their good things and they did not hold to their responsibilities. 7 Their sins were in secret and I did not see. 8 Their lawlessness was greater than those nations before them; they completely desecrated the holy things of the Lord. (Translation, Brad Embry, EJL 2:572)

Psalm of Solomon 1 I cried out to the Lord when I was severely troubled, to God when sinners set upon (me). 2 Suddenly, the clamor of war was heard before me; “He will hear me, for I am full of righteousness.” 3 I considered in my heart that I was full of righteousness, for I had prospered and had many children. 4 Their wealth was extended to the whole earth, and their glory to the end of the earth. 5 They exalted themselves to the stars, they said they would never fall. 6 They were arrogant in their possessions, and they did not acknowledge (God). 7 Their sins were in secret, and even I did not know. 8 Their lawless actions surpassed the gentiles before them; they completely profaned the sanctuary of the Lord. (Translation by R. B. Wright, OTP 2: 651).

In other cases translations are drawn from recent major translations. For Jubilees, the translation is from James Vanderkam (Leuven, 1989). Portions of the section on Josephus are from the Brill Josephus Translation and Commentary series, translated by Steve Mason, Louis Feldman, and Christopher Begg. The books of 1-2 Maccabees are extracted from the New American Bible translation, although Tobit is a fresh translation by Stuart Weeks. Most of the samples from the Dead Sea Scrolls are new translations from the author of the chapter. Fourth Ezra is taken from Bruce Metzger’s translation in Charlesworth. Strangely, the Letter of Aristides and 2 Baruch are reprints of R. H. Charles published in 1931, albeit edited by Joshua Williams. The translation of 2 Baruch is supplemented with papyri fragments from Oxyrhynchus in parallel columns.


I have several comments about this anthology of Early Jewish Literature. First, it is just that, an anthology. Certainly there are other examples in virtually every category which could have been chosen. For example, the Prayer of Manasseh is not included among the Psalms, Hymns and Prayers, but an example an incantation (4Q444) and an exorcisms (4Q560) are included. OTP also included several Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers and the Prayer of Jacob and the Prayer of Joseph. For Interpretive History, EJL has only the first two books of Maccabees and Josephus. While this alone is nearly 200 pages, there is no attempt to collect the various fragmentary historians such as Aristeas the Exegete or Eupolemus. In other ways the EJL covers more than expected. EJL includes a few of the more interesting sections of 1 Enoch in the Apocalyptic section, but has nothing from 2 Enoch or 3 Enoch (as in OTP). It is quite clear this is not an attempt to re-make James Charlesworth’s two volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983).

Second, although the introductions to each book are brief, they provide the necessary information for students to read the sampled literature with some context. The bibliographies point to more detailed studies on textual or theological issues. For some works (4QMMT, Psalms of Solomon) there is an extended theology section, but compared to the introductions in OTP, even these are brief. This is simply the nature of an anthology; it is impossible to explore any given text with the kind of depth found in a monograph.

Third, by including samples from the Dead Sea Scrolls as a part of a genre is extremely valuable. It is easy enough to find collections of this material in translation, to have various apocalyptic fragments printed along with some of the usual examples of the literature is very valuable. The same can be said for separating out wisdom literature embedded in 1 Enoch and placing alongside other Second Temple wisdom.


Early Jewish Literature is a major contribution to the ongoing study of the literature of the Second Temple period. Students and scholars alike will benefit from this collection of a wide range of material. The literature collected in these two volumes are sufficiently different from the now venerable Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the inclusion of Dead Sea Scroll material makes these useful volumes indeed.


NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

holy-landJust as the writer of Jubilees sought to insert the Law into primeval history, so to the boundaries of the Land. Jubilees begins with the recognition that the Land is a gift from God rooted in the covenant.  Chapter 1:7-14 summarizes Israel’s history as being given the Land, and being removed from the Land.  Verse 13 especially emphasizes the connection between covenant obedience and continued presence in the Land.  In 1:15-18 the Lord tells Moses that after the people repent, he will replant them in the Land and the sanctuary will be rebuilt.

The allocation of the land of Israel to the descendants of Shem is made in documents written by Noah himself (8:10-11).

And it came to pass at the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee, that they divided the land (in) three parts, for Shem, Ham, and Japheth, according to the inheritance of each, in the first year in the first week, while one of us who were sent was dwelling with them. 11 And he called his children, and they came to him, they and their children. And he divided by lot the land which his three sons would possess. And they stretched out their hands and took the document from the bosom of Noah, their father. OTP 2:72.

Noah rejoiced that his son Shem should receive this land, and blessed his son saying “may the Lord dwell in the dwelling place of Shem” (8:18).  In this territory are the three most holy places on earth: Eden, Sinai and Zion (8:19-21).  Of the territories assigned to the three sons of Noah, only Shem’s is described as “very good,” an echo of the text of the creation story itself (8:21, cf Gen 1:31).  When Canaan sees this good land he seizes it from his brother, incurring a curse (10:30).

After the flood, Noah makes a sacrifice to atone for the defilement of the land (6:2). The description of this sacrifice in Jubilees 7:30-33 is greatly expanded from the text in Genesis 9 and is a careful interweaving of texts from the Law on the defilement of the land (Halpurn-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible, 27).  In 7:34, Noah’s sons will be like plants in the land (medr) if they are righteous.  This may echo the prophets (Jer 11:17, Amos 9:15) as well as 1 Enoch (10:16, 93:5, 10).

When Abraham is taking possession of the land for the first time, the Lord promises to give the land to Abraham’s descendants forever (15:10).  In Abraham’s farewell to his children in chapter 20 he implores his children to not worship false gods so that they will remain in the land, blessed with the good things of the land (20:6-10). This section is an echo of the blessings found in Deut 27:15; it is perhaps significant that the writer does not include an equal place to the curses of the covenant.

The emphasis on God’s gift of land to the descendants of Israel is important because many Jewish readers of this book were living outside of Judea. Perhaps the author of Jubilees places the promise of land to the time of Noah in order to assure readers of God’s promise restore the people of Israel to the land in the future, or even to encourage a return to the land at the present time.

How does this idea of land play into the Maccabean revolt? Does the view of Jubilees reflect the same sort of land-theology as 1 Maccabees or 2 Maccabees? It is even possible the idea of the land as a sacred gift of God impacts later Christian writing (and perhaps contemporary theology).


Bibliography: Betsy Halpern-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible: Land and Covenant in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1994), 26.

Harry A. Ironside

Logos Bible Software is offering a free book each month in 2012.  For June, you can download The Four Hundred Silent Yearsby H. A. Ironside. The book can be read with either Logos Bible Software, Vyrso, or, either on your desktop computer or using the Logos App for iPad or the Android. Follow the link to download the book and enter the drawing for the 65-volume Complete Works of H. A Ironsides.

Ironside (1876-1951) was a pastor and teacher often associated with the Plymouth Brethren, although he is well-known for his evangelistic preaching throughout America.  He was a visiting lecturer at both Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, although he never accepted calls from either school to join the faculty.  He wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible as well as a large number of short booklets and tracts. Many of his books have been republished by both Kregel  Books and Loizeaux Brothers.  Ironside popularized of Dispensationalism in his books and was sometimes called  “the Archbishop of Fundamentalism.”  He is a member of the Brethren Writer’s Hall of Fame (although I suspect this is an unofficial list).

The Four Hundred Silent Years is a short book (only 104 pages) on the intertestamental period traces the history of Israel.  He first treats the period from the rise of Persia through the Hellenistic period in a chapter, with an emphasis on Ezra and Nehemiah.  There is a  chapter each on the Maccabean revolt and the “end of the Asmonean Dynasty.”  He describes the rise of the Herodians as “The Edomite Ascendancy” and close the book with a 10 pages summary of the Literature of the Jews.   The books is written in a narrative style with very little reference to primary sources (1 Maccabees or Josephus). This will make the book a fairly easy read for the casual reader.

It is difficulty to describe this book as useful since it was completed well before the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in fact, before most of the literature collected by Charlesworth’s Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha was available to scholarship!  His chapter on the “Literature of the Jews” contains only a few books from the Apocrypha, although he mentions the Pseudepigraphical books found in R. H. Charles, published just a year before Ironside’s own little book.  These books are only mentioned,

I think that this book is interesting, however, because Ironside is described as a fundamentalist and an early proponent of Dispensationalism.  He at least made the effort to understand the intertestamental period – something  fundamentalists 100 years later largely ignore (or worse, consider Catholic!)  This little book is therefore at least a historical artifact, although the general outline of the history he retells is not inaccurate. There are better and more “up-to-date” re-tellings of this history, but this is a decent overview of the Maccabean period.

The book is free for Logos / Vyrso users,  download a copy of  The Four Hundred Silent Years and enter the drawing for the Complete Ironside.

As many of you know, in addition to teaching Bible in a Bible College, I am the regular Sunday Evening teacher at Rush Creek Bible Church.  I have just finished a long series on the prophets, arranged chronologically, so I thought I would try something a bit unusual for a Bible church. Last weekend I taught on the Maccabean Revolt, this Sunday I am teaching on the development of “Judaisms” during the Second Temple Period.  There was a great deal of interest in the Maccabean Revolt and I had several supportive comments from people who attended.  There were a number of excellent questions asked after my presentation and (as far as I know) no real criticisms of spending a Sunday evening studying 1 and 2 Maccabees.  I am thankful for a congregation that is interested enough in the Bible to want to know more about the history of Israel after the close of the Hebrew Bible.

Why bother with the intertestamental history if it is not biblical history?  This is a good question given my teaching was in a regular Bible Study situation.  As I see it, there are several reasons which make a study of the intertestamental period important for the Christian.

First, much of what we read in the New Testament assumes the four hundred years of history between the testaments. Politically, everything has changed since we left Ezra and Nehemiah as representatives of the Persian government.  By the time we read the Gospels, the Land of Israel has been ruled by the Persians, Greeks and Romans.

Second, the struggle of Jews to live as Jews under foreign domination is a major factor in the New Testament. How can a Jewish person live like a Greek and maintain his identity as a Jew?  What are the boundary markers between Jew and Gentile?  What are the key behaviors or beliefs on which there cannot be compromise?  This question alone was so volatile in the first century that the suggestion that a Gentile could be right with God without keeping the Law caused riots.

Third, much of the messianic hope we encounter in the Gospels is based on the history of the Second Temple Period. The Jewish people faced oppression from the Greeks and Romans, but also from inside Judaism itself.  Many longed for a time when God would break into history and defend his people and his Land, renewing the promise he made to David in 2 Sam 7.  This hope for the coming messiah grew steadily during these years, as the Gospels show.

For me, this is all very “preachable” since the Christian church in the west is moving into a period of time where we are no longer the dominant cultural force.  The church will face very similar tensions to the Jews in the Maccabean period since we will have to decide what is important and non-negotiable with respect to doctrine a practice.  Like the “Judaisms” which came out of the Maccabean period, some Christians will include very little in their list of essential items and become virtually indistinguishable from the dominant secular world.  Others will have a lengthy detailed list of non-negotiable doctrines and practices and withdraw from secular society entirely.
On which issues will the Christian church “be zealous” when the day of persecution comes?

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