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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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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press,US (12 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830826785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830826780
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,846,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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.

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By Lector TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this book.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8bc9a0d8) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e1c9120) out of 5 stars An excellent place to start 14 April 2003
By Tom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Larry Helyer does an excellent job of introducing most of the relevent literature of the Second Temple period and its general influence on the writers of the New Testament and the Early Church. Excellent review or introduction depending on your background. I think this should be mandatory reading for every pastor and bible student. Well written with many chapter breaks to keep the organization of this large volume. This is the context of the New Testament that most Christians are not even aware exists. I have already recommended this texts to many people.
HASH(0x8e1c9174) out of 5 stars An indispensable tool for New Testament Studies!! 25 April 2016
By John M. Kight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Larry R. Helyer (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. Helyer has published numerous articles and reviews and has authored several books, including, Yesterday, Today and Forever: The Continuing Relevance of the Old Testament (Sheffield, 2004), The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology (IVP, 2008), and The Life and Witness of Peter (IVP, 2012). Still, it is within the present volume, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students (IVP, 2002), that Helyer has offered the reader his most notable investment and contribution to the study of the New Testament.

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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e1c95ac) out of 5 stars Great Survey of Intertestamental Jewish Literature 27 Jun. 2013
By Shane Lems - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have to admit when I first got this book I thought it was going to be one of those massive (500+ pages!) dry textbooks I can hardly finish. I was pleasantly surprised! Helyer's writing style is clear, engaging, and smooth. I haven't read much about Jewish literature of the 2nd Temple period, so I'm glad to own this book as a resource. I'm sure I'll consult it quite a bit in my NT studies, especially since there's a Scripture index in the back as well as a topical index.

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.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e1c9978) out of 5 stars Very unbalanced 27 Feb. 2011
By Aquinatis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book pretends to cover Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period. However it covers only a subset of it. I could hardly believe it (but on the other hand I have already had similar experiences with the editor, IVP). For example Helyer does not seem to know about important literature such as pseudo-orphic poetry. Another kind of example is very important literature which is only very partially covered (the so important Sibylline oracles are hardly covered, only book V is spoken of). I suspect that the cause may be that Helyer still identifies ancient Judaism too much with modern Judaism (i.e. the Pharisean strand) so that he spends too much much space on rabbinic Judaism or rather fundamentalist strands (related to the Dead Sea Scrolls). On the contrary the Jewish literature of the time was very broad, rich, open and enlightened by Hellenism. Only Philo gets an acceptable treat, the huge bulk of Hellenic Judaism is savaged or ignored. Would it be that Hellenism is not fit for fundamentalism?

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.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e1c9924) out of 5 stars A survey, but a secondary one. Far too much Helyer, for too little original source material 30 Oct. 2010
By Brett D. McLaughlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I went into this book fairly hopeful; I'm interested in the literature written in the intertestamental period, and have never had much occasion to really dig into reading works like the apocryphal and pseudopigraphical writings of the Jews. Unfortunately, Helyer's book disappoints for a student desirous of anything other than Helyer's own summaries and outlines.

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.
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