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The Dictionary of Early Judaism Hardcover – 1 Dec 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1296 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (1 Dec. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802825494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802825490
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7 x 19.6 x 6.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 955,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This dictionary, containing an immense amount of useful information presented with great clarity by an impressive range of scholars including many leading experts in the field, will be an essential resource for all those interested in studying the late Second Temple period and the Jewish background to the origins of Christianity. --Martin Goodman, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford

A welcome, handy reference tool for students of early Judaism. . . Presented in an easily accessible format, it is usable for general readers as well. --Eric M. Meyers, Center for Jewish Studies, Duke University

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism is an outstanding reference work that not only introduces this important era but also serves as a status report for scholarly activity in this area over the past few decades. Highly recommended for theological, research, and large public libraries. --Booklist

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Murrough Mc Bride on 17 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This encyclopedic Dictionary covers Judaism in the Greco-Roman age, and has thirteen penetrating essays which treat of Judaic matters in the period between Alexander the Great and the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The chronolgy covered is from the rebuilding of what is known as the Second Temple, roughly the period 538 B.C.E. to 135 C.E.and with special reference to the Mishnah, the colection of rulings or instructions which were authorative as Jewish Oral Law,
and whose compilation was completed in written form in 200 C.E.
There is an interesting time-line to be observed, because Simeon Bar Kokhba was a Jewish military Commander who led the Second Revolt against Rome in 132 C.E., which ended three years later with his inglorious death at Betar.
His surname meaning 'Son of a Star' was a messianic title (Num. 24:17), and his followers regarded him as the warrior chief sent by God, although Rabbis of the period satirised him as an eater of straw.
As in the First Revolt in 70 C.E.,the common belief held by ordinary Jew and Zealot was that the Messiah's initial task was to destroy the World Powers of which Rome was the prime example (2 Esdras 11:1-45 [Septuagint/Apoccrypha]).
There are well over 500 single entries in this massive tome of 1359 pages to peruse or study in detail.
In the leading out of the major thirteen essays John D. Collins takes us into a survey of Early Judaism as portrayed by modern scholarship.
Setting out his stall (p.2) he invites the reader to consider that 'in this volume we are mainly concerned with the evidence for Judaism between the Bible and the Mishnah', because in Western culture there was a paucity of Sources between the Biblical period and Mishnaic codification.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Long overdue 24 Feb. 2011
By Steven C. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The newly released Dictionary of Early Judaism (hereafter DEJ) is long overdue. It was just released in November - but seems like it was in the making for a some time.
For those who are familiar with IVPs Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels and the like, this volume will surely be a welcome addition. There is much to praise here.

First, and unlike the aforementioned IVP "Dictionary of ..." series on the OT & NT, DEJ begins with thirteen full-length (20-40pp) essays on critical topics such as:

"Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship" (John Collins)
"Jewish History in the Land of Israel" (James VanderKam)
"Early Judaism and Early Christianity" (Daniel Harlow)

as well as the one I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into soon: "Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation" by James Kugel. Side note: I use Kugel's "The Bible as it Was" in my seminary courses. My seminarians' heads usually explode (in the good sense) when they read early Jewish interpretations of Gen 3 - interpretations that are divergent and surprising - like the Book of Jubilees, or the apocryphal "Life of Adam and Eve," which posits a conversation between Eve and Satan outside of Eden. In LA&E, Eden is depicted as a temple - and it could be argued that for the audience of Jubilees, Gen 3 is "used" to promote Levitical purity - especially conjugal abstinence before priests enter the temple for temple service. I say this because in the text of LA&E, Adam and Eve consumate their relationship OUTSIDE the garden - and abstain in its sanctuary - interesting. (Again, heads explode.)

As an orthodox Catholic, I should add that my goal is not to conjure up such interpretations as consistent with Catholic theology, or to propose that they "replace" orthodox interpretations of Gen 3 - not in the least. If anything, I hope my seminarians will better appreciate what I call the "Christian innovation." Specifically, when we read Paul in Rom 5 ("Just as sin entered the world through one man ...") in light of such early Jewish texts, it is not hard to see just how "radical" Paul (and later, Augustine's) developing notion of Original Sin really was. It was in light of the Easter event - and only this, I'd argue, that the new interpretations of the OT can be understood. And so, grasping these earlier Jewish interpretations of the OT can help Christians better appreciate our own traditions - while learning a ton about early Judaism in all of its splendor and variety of biblical thought. (I hope that makes sense.) For all these reasons, the Kugel essay should be an important contribution - though in fairness, I have not reviewed this essay - yet.

After these thirteen longer essays, the dictionary-proper begins. Here, we can read over 500 articles from a considerable array of scholars. A few examples: John Collins (on a whole bunch of apocalyptic-related topics; Michael Stone, James VanderKam, David Aune ("miracles"), Dale Allison [!] (on "Abraham" - wow, can't wait to read that one; "Kingdom of God"); John Barclay ("Josephus"); Carol Newsome ("Job"); Craig Evans ("Gospel of Mark"); George Nickelsberg ("Resurrection") and on and on.

Another side note: One of my own professors from my doctoral program at Loyola Univ. Chicago, Fr. Thomas Tobin contributes on "Logos." Having had this leading Philonic expert in class, I can assure you that this article will be quite well done.

This is a cursory "review" - as I just purchased DEJ. After it arrives, and I peruse it, I may have a few additional comments. In the meantime, at 1400+ pp, DEJ looks to be a worthy volume - and one all scholars / students should at least consider - if not grab. Why not do so today?

Afterthought on different (but related) volume of biblical interest. I have read some negative reviews of Brant Pitre's brand-new volume "The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist." Let me dispel those critiques as erroneous and unfair. I suppose that some Protestant readers may not follow through Pitre's argument to its eucharistic end - fine; but his clarity of writing and grasp of early Jewish and Christian sources cannot and should not be overlooked. This is a good (introductory) volume on an interesting - and important topic. Pitre is on-point ... so read and enjoy!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
BAS 2011 Publication Award, Special Citation 30 Aug. 2011
By Daniel C. Harlow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover


Edited by John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010)

"The judges for the 'Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible' category [Philip King, Professor Emeritus, Boston College; Peter Machinist, Harvard University; and Jack M. Sasson, Vanderbilt University] cite this single volume for its rich contribution to Scriptural studies. Beyond addressing issues that are raised in the history of Judaism in Late Antiquity, this attractive and crisply edited publication offers balanced judgments on themes and interpretations that are basic to the study of the Hebrew Bible. There are essays on most books (especially prophetic and wisdom texts, not to say also Apocryphal literature that is canonical in the Catholic Church), but also major entries on early interpreters of biblical writings, such as Josephus, Philo, the New Testament and members of the Qumran community. Carried forward are many subjects with a life beyond the Hebrew Bible such as monotheism, sacrifice, messianism, temple worship and architecture, the afterlife, burial practices, circumcision, marriage and divorce. Biblical personalities acquire interesting treatments in midrashic and pseudepigraphic lore, objects from daily life (amulets, ossuaries, phylacteries) are given sharper contexts, and archaeological observations enrich our knowledge of sites. The volume's 270 learned contributors come from many nations and cut across faith traditions. Appended to articles are brief bibliographies. It is a must for all those who recognize the power and meaning of Hebrew Scripture to transcend its period of creation."

-- Biblical Archaeology Review - September/October 2011 (p. 9)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Doesn't get much better than this 4 Nov. 2013
By Brian C. Leport - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish I would have obtained it when it was published in 2010. If you have any interesting in early Judaism or Christian origins you need this book.

It is a shelf-resource, plain and simple. It has about fourteen hundred (large) pages of content. Each page is dual columned for easy reading. Topics are arranged in alphabetic order as expected.

The dictionary (this word seems quite insufficient) begins with a dozen or so major essays on everything from Judaism in modern scholarship to biblical interpretation in early Judaism to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the relationship between early and rabbinic Judaism.

The list of contributors is ten pages long. Authors include the most respected scholars in a variety of sub-fields that relate to early Judaism.

The beginning of the book includes a list of topics under headers such as “Literary Genres”, “Josephus”, “Groups in Society:, “Religious Institutions”, and much more. There is also a list of maps (hence, the encyclopedia includes maps), a chronological outline, and a list of important abbreviations.

It is hard to “review” a dictionary on a blog in such a way that the reader can recognize the worth of the volume, especially one as good as this one. (I recommend following the above link to Amazon.com so that you can preview the book.) Let me say again, if early Judaism interest you, or even rabbinic Judaism, Christian origins, or later Christianity, you will want this book. It is worth the price. It is the work of the best scholarship has to offer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Valuable Reference 10 Feb. 2013
By Susan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume is well worth the cost. Within the book one can find valuable information gathered in one place which otherwise would be unavailable except in consulting multiple scattered sources. I find myself returning to the volume to investigate various topics which relate to the context within which the Jewish Jesus lived and taught the first disciples.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Old Testemant (post-Exilic) dictionary 16 Feb. 2012
By Harry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reference on Early Judaism ... from Post-Exilic through Roman Period. Excellent background articles open the book followed by dictionary entries ranging from "Aaron" to "Zerubbable." I found it to be "main-stream" in approach. Primary advantage is a comprehensive reference in one book!
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