Thursday, December 24, 2009

Second Temple Literature and Historical Events

Question: Please direct me to a chronology of Second Temple literature, including Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Answer: This Timeline , developed by Dr. Charles Ess of Drury University in Missouri, provides a chronology of selected Second Temple literature in its historical context--both by date, by political event, and by milestone in the development of early Judaism.

Two of the resources described in the December 10 posting include selected apocrypha, pseudepigrapha and Dead Sea Scrolls in their historical context. The Timetables of Jewish History: a Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Jewish History by Judah Gribetz (Simon & Schuster, 1993) is best used for Second Temple writings via its index. Look up the title of the ancient book you are researching; you will be referred to the relevant listing by date and column. A Timeline of Jewish Texts also includes a few Second Temple compositions.

The Chronology of Jewish Literature provides a dated listing of selected Biblical and post-Biblical books, with dates of composition, co-related to major historical events. This website was created by a Dutch historian, Jona Lendering.

More comprehensive information about the dating and historical background of Second Temple literature can be found in individual articles in standard encyclopedias such as the Encyclopedia Judaica, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Cambridge History of Judaism:

-- The "Apocyrpha and Pseudepigrapha" article in the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press, 2000) indicates which of these texts are represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with a probable date for these particular copies. This encyclopedia is an excellent resource for an overview on each Dead Sea text and on the genres found in the Judean Desert -- for example, see these articles: "The Damascus Document" , "Hodayot", "Psalms, Hymns, and Prayers" and "Rules" .

--The "Apocrypha" article in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992) lists the main texts along with probable dates of composition.

--The Table of Contents of James Charlesworth's The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 volumes (Doubleday, 1983) clearly lists the title of each document, along with a range of dates for its probably composition. The introduction to each chapter goes into much more detail about the composition dates, including different dates for different parts of each text.

--A "Chronological Table" listing concurrent events in Palestine, Rome/Italy, Egypt and other parts of the ancient Near East is in the back (or front) of volumes 1, 2 and 3 of the Cambridge History of Judaism (Cambridge University Press, 1984-2006). These tables focus on political and military events, merely providing the historical background, without mentioning any texts.

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