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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.
In this provocative book, an eminent scholar examines the complex factors that shaped Judaism and early Christianity, analyzing cardinal Judaic and Christian texts and the cultural worlds in which they were written. Howard Clark Kee's sociocultural approach emphasizes the diversity of viewpoint and belief present in Judaism and in early Christianity, as well as the many ways in which the two religions reacted to each other and to the changing circumstances of the first two centuries of the Common Era.
According to Kee's interpretation of Jewish documents of the period, Jews began to adopt various models of community to bring into focus their group identity, to show their special relation to God, and to articulate their responsibilities within the community and toward the wider culture. The models they adoptedthe community of the wise, the law-abiding community, the community of mystical participation, the city or temple model, and the ethnically and culturally inclusive communitywere the means by which they responded to the challenges and opportunities for reinstating themselves as God's people. These models in turn influenced early Christian behavior and writing, becoming means for Christians to define their type of community, to understand the role of Jesus as God's agent in establishing the community, and to outline what their moral life and group structure, as well as their relations with the wider Jewish and Greco-Roman culture, ought to be.