Friday, May 7, 2010

emil schürer and second-temple judaism

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:

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?


Anonymous said...

Specifically on the Jewish world of Jesus, I would actually start with James VanderKam's Introduction to Early Judaism. I would not end there, but I would start there, in part (on both accounts) because it is a fairly short book. I took a seminar with JV at Fuller and the book was very helpful. He also did The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, but I haven't actually read that one.

Others I might add:

- Exploring Jewish LIterature of the Second Temple Period by Helyer

- Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity by David deSilva (not just on the Jewish bkgd, but somewhat)

- The Jewish World Around the New Testament by Richard Bauckham (not out yet, but I'm sure it's great)

- The Apocalyptic Imagination by John Collins. This one is more specific and more scholarly so probably not great as an introduction, but I know I need to read it so I thought I'd add it to the list. :)

And of course I'd suggest Wright's NT and the People of God. Oh yeah, and read the Apocrypha. Is there a good guide to reading through the Aporcypha? (I suppose VanderKam's might be good for that actually.)

Anonymous said...

Going a bit more detailed and specific, some of the first half of Richard Horsely's Jesus and Spiral of Violence is good, especially for understanding the economic realities in relation to Rome. His thesis that there were no "zealots" is a little silly (true in a sense that the word didn't refer to a specific group, but pointless because the kids of actions denoted by the word obviously took place widely), but the stuff on economics was helpful.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to see you added deSilva's book. It's really well done. I also like Malina's "The New Testament World."

I can't believe I forgot to put it on here, but one must also purchase a good English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think Vermes is good, but I ended up purchasing the one by Wise and Abegg.

Apocalpytic Imagination is quite good, but a little more narrow than what I think most people would want.

Anonymous said...

I know for some of our people Wright's "The Challenge of Jesus" has been a helpful jumping off point for some of this material

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Deborah said...

I would highly recommend the works of Alfred Edersheim, particularly "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" and "The Temple and it's Ministry in the Time of Jesus Christ." Both are exceptional reference works with copious citations of historical and Rabbinic literature, and written in a very enjoyable style that takes you into the very streets of Jerusalem and the courts of the Temple. A must have for any serious library.