Ancient judaism: new visions and views.

Author:Ulmer, Rivica
Position:Book review
 
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Ancient Judaism: New Visions and Views. By MICHAEL E. STONE. Grand Rapids, Mich.: WILLIAM B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 2011. Pp. xiv + 242. $30 (paper).

Michael Stone's book provides a wide range of textual studies and historical issues, mainly relating to Second Temple period Jewish texts; the book also includes brief considerations of medieval, in particular Christian, approaches to biblical texts, such as the Apocrypha. The book is divided into the following subparts: 1) Our Perception of Origins: New Perspectives on the Context of Christian Origins, 2) Adam and Enoch and the State of the World, 3) Apocalyptic Historiography, 4) Visions and Pseudepigraphy, 5) Bible and Apocrypha, 6) Multiform Transmission and Authorship, 7) The Transmission of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. It contains a fine bibliography by a superb expert in this field, an index of subjects and names, and very readable, illuminating footnotes that are conveniently placed at the bottom of the pages.

In the first section the book provides a provocative introduction concerning the term "history" in respect to ancient texts. This introduction revolves around theories of history that serve in evaluating texts from the Second Temple period, their transmission and ultimate survival in one form or another. Stone contends that the source material transmitted was dependent upon the particular strains of Judaism (and Christianity) that survived and became dominant. However, he emphatically steers the reader away from any theological or orthodox reasoning. In his historical perspective, Stone accentuates the constructions of the "other" derived from the transmitted memory in texts; additionally, he considers the "self" that is involved in the perception and the analysis of the "other."

A major challenge that scholarship faces is that in antique writings unacceptable views of one group were often copied verbatim into polemical texts of an antagonistic group. Furthermore, the type of religion preserved in texts is often very different from that reflected in archaeological discoveries. The importance and dominance of rabbinic Judaism were due to a long process that cannot be adequately reconstructed now. The historical reasoning in this introductory part of the book lays the foundation for the subsequent chapters.

As a commentator on 4 Ezra, Stone reminds the reader of the ongoing scholarly debate concerning the status of this work. Stone devotes himself to a religious studies approach...

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