I was recently asked by a close friend, "So I'm reading [N. T.] Wright and I see him referencing this Schurer cat over and over. Who is that?"
The short answer to the question is that Emil Schürer (1844 –1910) was a German scholar who produced a major work (6 Volumes) on the history of the Jewish people between 175 bc and ad 135. You can actually download a free PDF copy of Schürer's first volume here courtesy of Google books. The focus of the work is to give a comprehensive picture of second-temple Judaism and thus the world of Jesus and his immediate followers.
The original six volume series has been revised and edited into three volumes (Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3) by T & T Clark/Continuum. You can preview the first volume at Google books here. The revision was done by the recognized Jewish scholar Géza Vermes (most famous for his translation work on the Dead Sea Scrolls), the immanent Roman historian Fergus Miller (probably most recognized for his work on Roman Emperors) and Matthew Black (who is recognizable for suggesting that the Gospels and Acts be reconstructed in Aramaic). Unfortunately, this massive three volume work is too expensive to be readily accessible to the average reader, let alone the poor theology student. If you've got loads of cash buy the set (each volume goes for a little over $ 100), oh and why don't you get me one while you're at it. For the rest of humanity I would recommend finding a good academic library nearby or purchasing these books:
- Jewish Literature Between the bible and Mishnah (about $20 at Amazon)
- Complete Works of Josephus ($20 at Amazon) check out Steve Mason's book while you're at it.
- In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (about $20 at Amazon)
- The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
($45 at Amazon for both volumes in paperback is a great deal)
- The Works of Philo ($13 at Amazon)
N. T. Wright does indeed hail Schürer's work with abundant praise. "There is no recent work which does for the early church, or yet for Jesus, what the new edition of Schürer's classic History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ does for its subject-matter" (NTPG, 114). After E. P. Sanders, Schürer merits the most citations in Wright's work on first-century Palestine, The New Testament and the People of God (a.k.a. NTPG).
What else do you think ought to be on this list of resources for anyone interested in the Jewish world of Jesus and his contemporaries?