Esteemed scholar of the Hebrew Bible Joseph Blenkinsopp in his latest work Judaism the First Phase brings us the story of The Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism. Blenkinsopp's strategy in this work is to tell the history of this era through the lens of the two biblical books. In doing so, he argues that Jewish sectarianism (like Qumran) can be traced back to the work of Ezra and Nehemiah. The author, in support of his thesis, demonstrates a wide spectrum of learning and familiarity with the primary sources of Second Temple Judaism both a religious and historical. As such this book is a fresh, unique, insightful, and quite possibly--revolutionary look--at Jewish origins and the legacy of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Most studies of how early Judaism related to the non-Jewish world and how it was perceived by others start no earlier than the Hellenistic period. Joseph Blenkinsopp argues that we must go further back, to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the liquidation of the political and religious infrastructure monarchy, priesthood, scribalism, prophecy which had sustained the Judean state for centuries.
Moving beyond the ideologically driven approaches of scholars over the past two centuries, he explores such pragmatic issues as the emergence of a distinctive group identity in the aftermath of the fall of the Judean state, the degree of continuity-discontinuity between national identity before the exile and competition among distinct group for legitimacy after it, and the historical realities behind the idea of a "restoration" in a fundamentally different world, with neither monarchy nor statehood and a much-diminished temple.
Judaism, the First Phase is a fresh and potentially stunning look at Jewish origins, tracing the legacy of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ideal for scholars and students.
Joseph Blenkinsopp is John A. O'Brien Professor Emeritus ofBiblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Philip R. Davies
University of Sheffield
"Joseph Blenkinsopp's argument that the roots of Jewish sectarianism can be traced back to the work of Ezra and Nehemiah is presented with typical clarity, incisiveness, and breadth of scholarship. No student of early Judaism will fail to learn much from the numerous insights of this book, which range from the relationship of Ezra 1-6 and Chronicles to the Hasmonean adoption of Nehemiah and the ideological roots of the Damascus Document. Blenkinsopp's unique combination of wide learning and elegant argumentation makes his scholarship pleasurable as well as instructive."
Ehud Ben Zvi
University of Alberta
"Blenkinsopp has written a major contribution to the study of the history of the Second Temple period. Recent years have seen much work and discussion on Ezra and Nehemiah. One of the many strengths of this particular volume is its wide historical perspective. Blenkinsopp roots Ezra and Nehemiah (and their group and ideas) within a general historical construction of the Second Temple period. He looks backward into roots such as Ezekiel and Babylonian settings and forward into later sectarianism and Maccabean ideas and policies.
Blenkinsopp's profound knowledge of biblical (and related) texts and their potential interrelationships is displayed prominently throughout the volume. The combination of thoughtful detailed analysis and an approach in which the 'big historical picture' is always at the center ensures that this book will be widely read and cited both by historians of the period and by scholars researching particular texts relevant to the period. The fact that the book is also an enjoyable read will facilitate its use by students and laypersons."
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