Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Seminary Library Essentials: Introducing Paul and Judaism

As the five people who read my blog know, I’m a “Paul” guy. Specifically, every paper I’ve written here at Fuller Theological Seminary has largely surrounded Paul in some form, except when the professor did not give the option for me to write about the beloved apostle.

So this series will attempt to accomplish several things. First, this is a blog series by a seminarian and is subject to the whims of seminary life. As such, there will be material I recommend today that I will not recommend in a year. Such is life.

Second, and more importantly, the goal of this series is to offer students, readers, pastors, and theology nerds (like myself) resources for specific epistles and topics within the realm of Pauline studies. I may expand it to different topics outside of Paul, or even the wider New Testament, but for the time being I will focus only on my beloved Paul.

Third, the goal of this series is to offer the essential resources for Paul for under $100. This will go by Amazon prices (assuming you have Prime!). This is necessary simply because we are not rich and do not have significant shelf space for the entirety of Pauline literature.

So, in a nutshell, this is a series about essential resources that should cap out at $100. In the form a question or a hook, “I’m interested in X and I have $100 and a week to study and learn as much as I can from the experts, who should I buy?”

My first post is on introducing Paul specifically, and his relationship to Judaism. As a New Perspective guy, I find the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature around the time of Paul to be almost—almost—as interesting as Paul himself. Thus, the resources offered here will surround the Jewish literature and resources that I think will help you dig into the backgrounds of Paul and the milieu in which he lived.

Because I also want to cheat a little bit, I will include recommended resources that I feel are almost as necessary, but are simply out of the price range I have arbitrarily set. And away we go!

Second Temple Jewish resources and literature.

·      James C. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 2 Volumes (Hendrickson, 2010), 2104 pages. $48.

Encompassing Second Temple literature from the Second century BCE (1 Maccabees) to even the Ninth century CE, Charlesworth has assembled a vital and truly necessary anthology of Jewish literature into two volumes. You have histories, apocalypses, poems, and even lost fragments. If anyone wants to understand Judaism, you need this collection. Richard Bauckham has recently released a large volume on additional documents, but I have not had a chance to peruse much of it, sadly.

·      The Apocrypha is free if you have an NRSV Bible. Free.

It is free. That is enough. It is similar to the Old Testament pseudepigrapha.

·      Shaye Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah 2nd edition (Westminster John Knox), 272 pages. $24.

Cohen is an immaculate scholar. He lectures at Harvard, and his book is an excellent introduction to Jewish history. He takes a strongly historical and critical approach to history, and even covers sections about gender and ethics, just to name a few.

He has a third edition out of this text, which is mandatory, but that would put me over the $100 limit I set.

·      C.D. Yonge, The Works of Philo (Hendrickson, 1993), 944 pages. $16.

Philo is a first century Jewish philosopher, and as such, he is tendentious, odd, and highly weird in his interpretation of the Law. That said, he is necessary to read simply because of his contemporary status with Paul and some other Jewish writers within the New Testament.

·      William Whiston, Josephus: The Complete Works (Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1200 pages. $11.

Same with Philo; Josephus is a Jewish historian who wrote what is essentially a commentary on the entire Old Testament.

·      Total: $99.

Not too shabby, right? There are of course more I could suggest, but these works I consider definitive for a person who wants to dig deep into the well of Pauline theology and literature.


·      James C. VanderKam, An Introduction to Early Judaism (Eerdmans, 2000), 248 pages. $14.

Not as expansive as Cohen, VanderKam is still a great introduction from a non-Jewish perspective.

·      Richard Bauckham, The Jewish World around the New Testament (Baker, 2010), 560. $47.

An excellent anthology of Bauckham’s essays.

·      E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism. $30.

The book that changed the face of Pauline studies, ushering in the mainstream nature of the “New Perspective.” 

These works have challenged me and changed me in multiple ways, the chief one being that I have begun to learn who Paul "was" in respect to his cultural context, and the assumptions I bring to the text. Thanks for reading!


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