Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students / Larry R. Helyer. (Christian Classics Bible Studies) Paperback – 12 Mar 2003
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"The literature of Second Temple Judaism is so vast that few college or seminary students ever receive a decent introduction to it at all. Here, in one volume, are references to judicious samplings from every major corpus, complete with introduction and background, and detailed explanation of relevance for New Testament studies. A wonderful gift for students and professors alike. Perhaps many will now actually teach, and teach substantially, on the topic!"--Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
"There are many useful books on Second Temple Jewish literature, for which reason I nearly passed this book by. But once I began actually examining it, I recognized the thoroughness of Larry Helyer's acquaintance with the sources and how carefully he has prepared this book with New Testament students in mind. I believe it will provide an excellent resource for those who want access to the most important materials for New Testament study."--Craig S. Keener, Professor of New Testament, Palmer Seminary
"In this comprehensive and well-informed volume, Larry Helyer provides an exemplary introduction to the world of Second Temple Judaism, its history and its literature. What is distinctive about Helyer's work is his deliberate reading of this material with the New Testament in mind. In so doing he is able to show how deeply Jewish the New Testament is and how knowledge of this material can enrich our reading of the New Testament. This book is impressive not only for the high quality of its scholarship but also for its exceptional clarity and judiciousness. Especially commendable are Helyer's positive attitude to things Jewish and his adamant rejection of anti-Semitism. Highly recommended!"--Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary
About the Author
For twenty nine years Larry R. Helyer was professor of biblical studies at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Now retired, he continues to write on theological topics and serve as an adjunct professor in the United States and abroad. He is the author of Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period.
Top Customer Reviews
The (Christian) author claims to be writing from an Evangelical standpoint, but the book never gets 'preachy', and the scholarship is never less than meticulous.
Aimed at students of the New Testament, this book is refreshingly readable. It will gently take you by the hand and lead you through the fascinating and sometimes bizarre landscape of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writers Philo and Josephus, and a wide range of other apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books.
While the book can be just picked up and read from cover to cover, to get the most benefit I would suggest you treat it like a sort of college course. This will involve buying several other books (Like Josephus, Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc - most of which are cheaply available on Amazon.)
The author provides numerous quotes from all the works in question, but suggests sections from the original writings as pre-reading for each chapter. This is how I've been using the book, and it's been a wonderful experience.
The book doesn't shy away from the 'proper' scholarly terms for stuff. You'll occasionally encounter expressions like 'Sitz im Leben' or 'Vorlage', but the author (bless him!!) always provides a plain English translation of the theological terms when he uses them.
I really can't recommend this book highly enough for anyone looking for a good and thorough introduction to the writings and ideas underlying the books of the New Testament.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period begins with a brief introduction outlining the history and importance of the Second Temple period for NT studies. While the information in this section may be considered foundational for the incoming reader, it is quite brief and could easily be ignored without consequence. However, the content that follows this section exhibits a much different story. Helyer systematically introduces the reader to the wealth of literature produced between the Babylonian exile and the rise of rabbinic Judaism. It is here that Helyer examines literary works generally categorized within groups such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mishnah, Targums, etc. Within each of the sections, the reader is carefully guided through various literary pieces, including information such as genre, sources, purpose, date, composition, structure and outline, content and characteristics, as well as a section devoted to the significance of the particular book to NT studies.
The examination of literature in this volume is impressive and includes such works as Tobit, Enoch, 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, Thanksgiving Hymns, Damascus Document, Testament of Moses, Jubilees, and much, much more. Each major section of the book ends with helpful discussion questions for small groups or personal reflection, as well as a select bibliography for further study. One of the most impressive aspects of this volume is the sheer number of footnotes that accompany each section. This volume is both comprehensive and well-informed in its examination and research, and Helyer’s familiarity with the literature and context is evident with the turn of every page. Additionally, while the thoroughness of this volume will be enough to warrant its inclusion in your library, the readability will guarantee that it is met with equally good use.
If you are someone with even a remote interest in the study of the New Testament, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students by Larry R. Helyer is an indispensable resource. I recommend a cover-to-cover read the first time around for familiarization with the content, and then the consultation of the various indexes for future reference. Regardless, this will be a volume you will use often. It comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
In case you were wondering, Helyer discusses most of the important Jewish writings, including those found in the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls; he also interacts in detail with Philo, Josephus, and the Mishna (along with others). He typically gives the dating of each work, the outline, the main contents, and what it has to do with our studies of the NT. The structure is helpful and easy to read/reference.
I do wish there was a summary chart of each Jewish writing (dating, main themes, etc.) in the appendix so one could have a quick-reference guide. However, the book is valuable as is. It's a very long introductory survey, but it is one I'm glad to own. In fact, Helyer's work has led me to start reading some of these Jewish writings themselves (i.e. I've already read Susanna, Ben Sira, and parts of Tobit). I do recommend this book.
The book would be OK (the advantage being that it is low-level, very accessible) if the subject had been limited, e.g. strands of rabbinic or cultic kinds, or hardly influenced by Hellenism (and then excise the part on Philo). But with such a broad title, the books totally fails to cover the huge subject claimed.
Extensive surveys of the Jewish literature of the time are found in very expensive volumes such as those by Albert-Marie Denis published at Brill's or Peters'. A cheap, intelligent and accessible introduction is John Collins' Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (The Biblical Resource Series) (Eerdmans, 2000), e.g. covering the judaic Sibylline and Orphic literature. Collins, although not pretending to be a survey, will help the readers of the current book realize the kind of things they are missing if relying on Helyer's book.
In the early sections, Helyer at least implies that he's going to generously excerpt the works to which his titling and mammoth book refer. Further, with the book clocking in at over 500 pages, it seems only natural to expect large portions of at least the major works of these times to be quoted. This is not the case, though. For every paragraph of quoted text, there are at least 5 or 10 pages of Helyer's own thoughts, commentary, introduction, and notes. You get a much greater sense of Helyer's style than the style of the works cited; you get a much better sense of Helyer's opinions than an ability to form your own.
The most useful portion of this work for me was a good reference as to which collections of the early Jewish works might be worth buying. Unfortunately, I'll have to make those purchases and then read these works myself. Very disappointing.