The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and of a Gnostic library two years earlier in Egypt has provided biblical scholars with information and insights that have resulted in a fresh historical reconstruction of Judaism and nascent Christianity in the period from 200 B.C.E. to 200 C. E. This challenge has been heightened by archaeological finds in Israel andthe wider Mediterranean world that provide new evidence about the development of Judaism in this era. Concurrent with these new finds have appeared fresh analyses of such well-known Jewish documents as the Mishnah and Talmud, as well as the so-called Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, which have resulted in radical reappraisal of the development of Judaism from post-exilic times into the Roman era. In spit of the admirable surge of interest in these new or newly understood materials, many historians in this field have failed to take into account the fresh insights from sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers about the social nature of knowledge and personal identiy and their vital implications for historical study. In this provocative book, an eminent scholar examines the complex sociocultural factors that shaped Judaism and early Christianity, analyzing cardinal Judaic and Christian texts and the cultural communities in which they were written.