Guidelines for Research Papers in Religious Studies 469.01
Following is a listing of some suggested topics in the study of Judaism during the Post-Biblical or Second Temple era. The items are intended as broad areas or research, not as specific titles for papers. Most of the items could be dealt with in several different ways, and have generated a considerable amount of scholarly literature.
The Qumran Documents (Dead Sea Scrolls)
Fragment of the 'Zadokite Work' (Damascus Covenant) from the Cairo Genizah
Much controversy surrounds the question of who composed these texts. Initially, the consensus of scholarship argued that they had been produced by a particular Jewish sect, most likely the Essenes. Recent studies have challenged that view, attributing them to either a different group (e.g., Jewish Christians) or to a broad spectrum of assorted groups.
Sects and Movements
There are several fundamental questions and controversies in the study of Pharisaism, including: Its origins and relationship to other groups such as the Scribes and Hasideans, Rabbis, etc.; its possible socio-economic dimensions; its distinctive beliefs: e.g., the Oral Torah, Resurrection; its modes of Biblical interpretation.
This is the least studied of the major movements, and is known (almost) exclusively through the negative statements of its opponents. It is important (but difficult) to attempt to try to see the Sadducees as they would have seen themselves.
Most recent scholarship on the Essenes deals with their connection to the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which (e.g., the Community Rule ) are very close to Josephus description of the group.
The Judaism of Hellenized communities, especially in centres like Alexandria, had its own distinctive character; e.g., its concern with philosophy and allegorical interpretation of scripture. Scholars have suggested that it was this type of Judaism that formed the basis for the successful Christian mission to the diaspora. At the same time, the diaspora Jews remained submissive to the Judaism and Jewish leadership of the Palestinian centre.
Philo's allegorical interpretations of the Bible make fascinating reading, and contain much material for a research paper.
The Evolution of the Bible
The selection of the books that would eventually become the Hebrew Bible was going on throughout the Second Temple era. While the contents of the Torah and most of the Prophets were apparently determined very early, the list Hagiographa evolved slowly and erratically throughout the era, and perhaps afterwards. The Apocrypha provide an example of books that were evidently included in some people's Bibles, but not in others. Some have suggested that certain writings from the Dead Sea Scrolls were accepted by the Essenes as "scripture." Did the differences among the various groups result in part from their acceptance of different books as inspired?
Most scholarly literature about the evolution of the Bible presumes a Christian model of "canonization," according to which theological decision were proclaimed by official councils or synods about whether a given work was prophetic or inspired. The Jewish sources seem to relate to more practical criteria: whether the work is to be read aloud in the synagogue, or if it "defiles the hands." You should give some thought to the question of historical methodologies.
Ideas about the afterlife
- Revelation, the nature and status of prophecy and scripture
- Attitudes towards Paganism and philosophy
- Eschatology and Messianism (e.g., how these ideas were shaped by the Bible and by contemporary concerns)
- Free will and divine power
Jewish Observances and Laws
The calendar and festivals:
Pharisaic Judaism employed a lunar-solar calendar, whereas some other movements had purely solar calendars. What were the origins and implications of this dispute?
The Biblical festivals were understood and observed in different ways by different Jewish groups. Focus on one or more of the festivals, and explore the origins and implications of these differences.
The Sanhedrin and the court system:
Many sources (e.g., Josephus, the New Testament, Rabbinic tradition) speak of the Sanhedrin as the main institution for the interpreta tion, legislation and adjudication of Jewish religious law. These sources often present differing pictures of its structure and functions. Note: Many discussions focus on the Sanhedrin s role in the trial of Jesus.
The Jerusalem Temple and the Priesthood
All observers agree that the Jewish religion at this time was dominated by the Temple, the sacrificial cult, and the priests who administered it. Sanders has some very insightful things to say about how these institutions affected the day-to-day spirituality of the general population, but there is a great deal more that be said in describing such phenomena as sacrifices, pilgrimages to the Temple, the status and duties of the priesthood, etc.
Dietary and Purity Laws
The Bible lays down many laws which influence and regulate the manner in which food may be produced and consumed (e.g., tithes, heave-offering, prohibitions of certain species)
Marriage and the family
The roles of husband and wife; the legal mechanisms for establishing and dissolving marriages; polygamy, levirate marriage, laws of inheritance, etc.
Prayer, liturgy and the synagogue
The formal liturgy of Judaism is not well documented until the Talmudic era; though it is evident that elements of those prayers had existed long before. Scholars have pointed to passages in the Apocrypha (especially Ben-Sira) as reflecting stages in the evolution of the Jewish liturgy,and texts from Qumran have provided much new information on this question that is still being evaluated.
The origins and history of the synagogue are not clear, and have been open to a variety of modern reconstructions.
The range of available literature is vast. Following is a very selective listing of some of the better general works in the area.
For specific topics consult more specialized references, such as the Religions Index (available in the Reference section of the library in print and on CD-Rom).
The Sanders textbook has an excellent bibliography on pp. 544-53. Note especially his lists of English versions of primary sources.
Consult with me! It can t hurt.
- Jewish Quarterly Review (a general journal of Jewish studies, edited for many years by Solomon Zeitlin, a specialist in Second Temple Judaism. Unfortunately, Zeitlin was firmly convinced that the Dead Sea Scrolls were a medieval forgery, and refuse to publish any articles that said otherwise).
- Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Periods. Note their extensive synopses of articles from other journals and scholarly collections.
- AJS Review.
- Journal of Jewish Studies, has always devoted much attention to Second Temple Judaism and Qumran.
- Revieu de Qumran. Don't panic, many of the articles are in English.
- Studia Philonica Annual
- Novum Testamentum
- Journal of Biblical Literature
- Roth, C., ed., Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: 1972).
- Jewish Encyclopedia (An excellent encyclopedia, but it is close to a century old, so you have to use it very carefully).
- Feldman, Louis H., Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, Detroit, 1987.
- Feldman, Louis H., Josephus and modern scholarship, Berlin , 1984.
- Feldman, Louis H., Josephus : a supplementary bibliography, New York : Garland, 1986.
- Alon, Gedaliahu, Jews, Judaism and the Classical World (Jerusalem: 1977).
- Alon, Gedaliahu, The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age (Jerusalem: 1980).
- Baron, Salo W., A Social and Religious Gistory of the Jews, Vol. II (New York).
- Bickerman, Elias, the God of the Maccabees : studies on the meaning and origin of the Maccabean revolt, Leiden, 1979.
- Bickerman, E. J., The Jews in the Greek Age, Cambridge, Mass., 1988.
- Bickerman, E. J., From Ezra to the last of the Maccabees: foundations of post-Biblical Judaism , New York, 1962.
- Cohen, Shaye D., From Maccabees to Mishnah.
- Davies, W. D. and Finkelstein, L., The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. II: The Hellenistic Age (Cambridge, 1984).
- Falk, Zev, Introduction to Jewish Law of the Second Commonwealth (Leiden: 1972-8).
- Finkelstein, Louis, The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of Their Faith (Philadelphia: 1962).
- Flusser, David, Judaism and the origins of Christianity, Jerusalem 1988.
- Ginzberg, Louis, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: 1968).
- Hengel, Martin, Judaism and Hellenism (London: 1974).
- Mason, Steve N., Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (Leiden: 1991).
- Moore, George Foot, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (Cambridge MA: 1927 30).
- Neusner, Jacob, From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism (Englewood Cliffs:1973).
- Nickelsburg, George W. E., Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah (Philadelphia: 1981).
- Safrai, S. and Stern, M., The Jewish People in the First Century (Assen and Philadelphia: 1974).
- Safrai, S. and Stern, M., The Literature of the Sages (Assen and Philadelphia: 1987).
- Sanders, E. P., Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah (London and Philadelphia: 1990).
- Schiffman, Lawrence H., Sectarian Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Chico: 1983).
- Schürer, Emil, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C. A.D. 135), revised and edited by G. Vermès, F. Millar et al. (Edinburgh: 1973 87).
- Stern, Menahem, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (Jerusalem: 1974 84).
- Tcherikover, Avigdor, Hellenistic civilization and the Jews, New York, 1985.
- Solomon Zeitlin, The Rise and Fall of the Judean State (Philadelphia 1962)
- The World history of the Jewish people (Society and Religion in the Second Temple Period), Tel Aviv, 1964-.
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