Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity

If you were teaching a course on Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity what primary (or secondary) texts would you assign? What would the main issues be? What are the most important features of Second Temple Judaism for an understanding of early Christianity?

(I don't really like the course title because it can suggest that Judaism is only important for the light it sheds on early Christianity, not something worth studying on its own terms. But it occurred to me, as I began revising my syllabus for next semester's class, that taking the 'backgrounds' part seriously  is a good way of asking the 'so what?' question.)


pgmccullough said...

That's not the only flaw with the course title, of course, as "Early Christianity" was a form of "Judaism."

Thoughts off the top of my head might be a bit obvious:
-DSS and Qumran community: sectarianism, dualism, way of life, apparent "parallels" to the early Jesus movement
-Enochic literature
-1 & 2 Maccabees
-Some Josephus
-Some Philo
-I've always thought Tobit is a cool source for tracking with Jewish piety
-As for secondary stuff, I really appreciated Skarsaune's In the Shadow of the Temple.

Those are my initial thoughts, which you probably already had covered.

Anonymous said...

In addition to some that listed, the Old Testament.

Blessings, RogueMonk

Isaac Gross said...

As far as the title goes, you are teaching Christians, who speak English. How particular do we have to get? I understand the debate, historical distance, etc. but it seems like the majority of the course will be foreign material to most students. Their papers will be focused there as well. If anything you might risk more "anachronism" for want of a better word. Risk application.

Two cents. : )

John Ottens said...

-a bit of Sirach
-4 Ezra
-Psalms of Solomon!!
-maybe even a select portion from the Mishnah, just to give some exposure?

And, Cohen (Maccabees to the Mishnah) really was a pretty significant read for me, if a little bit difficult to follow at the time.

d. miller said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I forgot to stress the 'why' question in my post: Can you explain why you would assign these particular texts, etc.?

Nick Meyer said...

Beside the standard DSS selections, have 'em read
4QInstruction: an excellent example of the convergence of wisdom and apocalypticism which we also see in the gospels.