This article provides an outline of the Achaemenid empire’s political history followed by an overview of the diverse sources for understanding some of its institutions. Despite inherent difficulties, the sources allow scholars to reconstruct vital aspects, such as the provincial system, variations in the way different provinces were managed, the “king’s law,” Persian religion, and the strength of central control which held the imperial regions together. The chapter ends with a consideration of the king’s position and royal ceremony and ideology.
Gerard J. Norton
This article first gives a schematic outline of the history of the Hebrew text in four stages. It then presents the elements that readers will meet in modern editions of that text. These modern editions find a common focus in the great Tiberian manuscripts of about 1000
Ronald S. Hendel
The biblical texts from Qumran are the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, dating from the mid-third century BCE through the first century CE. Prior to the discovery of the Qumran texts, evidence for the early history of the biblical text consisted of three major versions – the Masoretic text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), and the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) – each with an unbroken chain of transmission to the present day. This article assesses the major text-critical theories of the Hebrew Bible after Qumran. First, it surveys the textual situation at Qumran and the relationships among the Qumran texts and the major versions (MT, LXX, and SP), using, as a perspicuous example, the texts of Exodus. Then, the article addresses the adequacy of the text-critical theories, testing their strengths and weaknesses against this evidence. The major protagonists in the theoretical discussion are Frank M. Cross, Shemaryahu Talmon, Emanuel Tov, and Eugene Ulrich.
This article introduces the Assyrian and Babylonian sources relevant to the Old Testament historical books. The corpus of Assyrian sources consists mainly of royal inscriptions between the mid-ninth and mid-seventh centuries
Timothy H. Lim
The approach advocated in this article is the understanding of canon as authoritative literature that is binding for the Qumran community. The distinctive features of this approach are: authority is related to a community; the pesherite is central to the understanding of authoritative literature; there is a vaguely bipartite canon where the ‘Torah of Moses’ referred to the Pentateuch; authoritative literature included the biblical lemmata cited and the pesherite interpretation; Jubilees, Enoch, and the Temple Scroll were not considered part of the Torah of Moses; the rules of the community were considered canonical and authoritative; and other books, such as the Psalms of Joshua and ‘the book of meditation’, may also have been considered authoritative.
Joan E. Taylor
The nature of groups named in classical sources as ‘Essenes’ was considered in scholarship of Second Temple Judaism long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but discussion of the Essenes has intensified greatly during the last sixty years. This article reviews the classical sources on the Essenes. It notes propositions on how the Essenes may relate to the scrolls communities and considers how variant opinions may be resolved, with particular reference to the Serekh.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be classified as religious documents of one kind or another, and all the studies since 1947 that have been devoted to their significance can be characterized as attempts to construct some aspect of ancient Judaism from them. Where agreement has been harder to achieve is on the centrality of the role to be accorded to the evidence from the scrolls in constructing a picture of Judaism in the last centuries BCE and the first century CE. Although the scrolls provide reason to believe that some sectarians believed that much was wrong with the Temple in Jerusalem, no text actually states that sectarians should avoid the Temple altogether. The question for the historian is whether the evidence from such texts should be enough to encourage the view that sectarian Jews with such beliefs would cut themselves off from the Temple.
Considering Qumranic hermeneutical systems with regard to form, this article distinguishes between ‘internal interpretation’ integrated within rewritten biblical books, such as the Temple Scroll, and ‘external interpretation’ which is separated from the biblical lemma. The latter forms appear in the pesharim and in the genre called halakhic midrash. With regard to content, the discussion distinguishes between two hermeneutical systems of ancient literature: interpretation that attempts mainly to explain the reality of the biblical period; and interpretation that attempts to adapt the content of the Bible to the reality of a later period. The first is found in the Qumran scrolls primarily within the ‘Rewritten Scriptures’, and the latter is represented in the pesharim and some types of halakhic midrash.
Daniel K. Falk
Prayer as a service to God by the people is one of the most far reaching of religious practices, forming a central part of the religious practice of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; yet there is still much uncertainty about how this developed within Judaism and why. Scrolls from Qumran provide the most important corpus of evidence to shed light on the critical period during the days of the Second Temple. This article presents a case study for prayer in ancient Judaism. It is organized around the types of questions being asked: questions of definition and classification, textual questions, historical questions, questions concerning context, and questions of ideology and theology. There is a good deal of overlap between these categories, but they are be treated separately for heuristic purposes.
From the very earliest period after the first discoveries, the Qumran scrolls have been of major interest to New Testament (NT) scholars, and, in retrospect, the impact of the scrolls has considerably shifted the debate in central areas of NT scholarship. The debate touches the essence of history-of-religions research, the question of how to explain alleged parallels and how to prove ‘influences’ on the level of texts, authors, or religious groups. The issues discussed are most generally the Jewish, or more distinctly, the Palestinian, impact on the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, the primitive community, or the religious language and theology of NT texts. The scrolls also provide a wealth of information that helps in the interpretation of the New Testament – on the Palestinian-Jewish ‘context’ of emerging ‘Christianity’, factions and groups, etc.
David is one of the most colorful figures of the Bible and of the entire literature that has come down to us from antiquity. David’s characterization as a sensitive musician, a violent warrior, and an emotional lover is intertwined with his political career as king of Israel. David’s characterization in the books of Samuel, already transformed in the Psalter and in Chronicles, is the starting point for a variegated history of reception. In the New Testament, David appears as the ancestor and type of Christ. From late antiquity to early modern times, Christian emperors and kings were portrayed as new Davids. Only the Enlightenment cast dark critical shadows over the figure of David. Modern interest shifted towards his individual, psychological traits. After sketching the biblical images of David, their reception, especially in political terms, is traced up to the present.
Joy A. Schroeder
Judges 4–5 features the protagonist Deborah, a prophet, judge, war leader, singer, and “mother in Israel” (Judg. 5:7.) Interpreters treated Deborah in literary, musical, and artistic works found in a variety of genres and venues: rabbinic texts, letters, sermons, prayers, polemical treatises, church instructions, scholastic treatises, commentaries, novels, paintings, and oratorios. In Jewish and Christian reception of Deborah’s story, gender concerns are prominent. The same themes recur through the centuries: the meaning of Deborah’s name (“bee”) and designation (“wife of Lappidoth” or “woman of torches”); spiritual equality of male and female; the appropriateness of educating women; questions about women’s civil, religious, and military leadership; domesticity; maternity; and proper female deportment. Some interpreters presented Deborah as a model of a submissive wife and tender mother in order to reinforce gender norms; others criticized her for being outspoken. Women frequently used Deborah as biblical warrant for female education, preaching, rabbinic ministry, political leadership, and publishing activity. Those who sought biblical precedent for women’s expanded roles in society, politics, and religious communities found Deborah’s story to be a powerful source of personal inspiration and a compelling scriptural justification for institutional change.
The study of trauma in early twentieth-century psychoanalysis concluded that trauma survivors have been overwhelmed by traumatic events and so are unable to experience them and form memories of them, and thus unable to know the trauma. Trauma is thus relived rather than remembered, repetitively and uncontrollably forcing itself into victims’ lives through literal dreams of the events, flashbacks, and so on, appearing to the survivor as a foreign body that stands outside of the self. The study of trauma within the field of literary criticism developed out of psychoanalytical conclusions about it, and points out that literature of trauma reflects these psychological effects. In such literature, then, we find trauma continually repeating and, since it cannot be known, refusing to be controlled by narrative explanation. Trauma, in short, is anti-narrative. The study of trauma within sociology, however, is based on an understanding of trauma as something created by a society in order to explain past events and solidify social bonds. A sociological reading of trauma in the Deuteronomistic History (Dtr) focuses on the ways in which Dtr’s narrative makes the exiles’ traumatic experience of defeat and exile understandable and meaningful. This kind of explanation, however, has no real interest in healing the exiles’ psychological wounds. A literary reading of trauma in Dtr reveals trauma to be present in absences of explanation, deconstructing Dtr’s narrative certainty. It appears as intrusions into Dtr’s totalizing narrative, intrusions that put the writing’s explanatory certainties of divine justice on trial while refusing to provide a verdict.
Marvin A. Sweeney
This article examines the distinctive roles of the prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua; Judges; Samuel; Kings) and the Chronicler’s History (Chronicles). It posits that the prophets are especially associated with leadership in the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH), beginning with prophetic figures such as Joshua, Deborah, and Samuel, who functioned as leaders in Israel, and continuing with the prophetic figures who played major roles in establishing and critiquing the various dynasties that came to power and ruled both Israel and Judah. It further posits that prophets play a key role in establishing and critiquing the house of David in the Chronicler’s History (ChrH). But the prophets function primarily in the ChrH to explain the significance of their subjects and the reasons why they so frequently suffered either blessing or judgment for their conduct in relation to YHWH and the Jerusalem temple.
Douglas S. Earl
It has become commonplace to characterize the historical books using the concept of violence and to regard this characterization as posing a problem demanding a solution, usually repudiation of the texts. This article indicates that “violence” is an interpretative concept supplied by readers and that such characterization was absent prior to the 1990s. The nature of the concept of violence is then analyzed, and the article argues that it has rhetorical and ideological force to urge the repudiation or rejection of what is described as violent. With reference to the historical books, the label of violence as an overall interpretative lens is used ideologically to block appreciation and appropriation of the texts and the traditions that they represent. Thus it should not be readily accepted by Jewish and Christian readers. However, localized use of the concept can bring into focus some of the interpretative issues and challenges concerning particular stories.
Ann E. Killebrew
The search for biblical Israel in the textual and archaeological record has been a focus of scholarly research for over a century. Using as their starting point the books of Exodus, Joshua, and Judges, Albright’s unified conquest and Alt’s peaceful infiltration models emphasize the external, or foreign, origin of Israel as presented in the biblical narrative. More recent suggestions highlight the indigenous nature and role of Late Bronze Age Canaan in Israel’s emergence. These approaches, including the social revolution, pastoral Canaanite, and mixed multitude models, enlist, to varying degrees, biblical and Egyptian sources (principally the Merneptah Stela), archaeological evidence, and a variety of sociological, anthropological, environmental, and other approaches to reconstruct the complex process of early Israel’s ethnogenesis.
Kristin De Troyer
This article surveys the scholarship on the relation between the book of 1 Esdras and its canonical sister, Ezra-Nehemiah. The survey deals with questions about the origin and function of the story of the three youths/bodyguards, the language of 1 Esdras, and the value of 1 Esdras as a historical document and/or a rewritten text. The article argues that 1 Esdras is a rewritten text, based on the Hebrew-Aramaic texts found in 2 Chronicles 35–36, Ezra-Nehemiah, and 2 Kings 22–23. The author not only composed the story using the aforementioned sources, but also reorganized source material and inserted new material into the story. That rewritten story was the basis for the Greek translator who translated the now lost Hebrew-Aramaic Vorlage into Greek.
Herbert R. Marbury
This article focuses on the divorce rhetoric of Ezra-Nehemiah within the context of Persian imperial dominion. After outlining the scholarly history of inquiry into the divorces and admonitions against exogamy—stemming from challenges to historicity, the dating of the reforms, and the debate about Ezra’s or Nehemiah’s priority—this work examines the framing devices of return and restoration with regard to the Second Temple. The article takes up Persian engagement with temple communities in Egypt and Babylon and turns to analyze the multivalent character of the divorce rhetoric to show that it is a response to similar Persian engagement in Yehud. Finally, this work shows how the rhetoric evidences the negotiation of Persian power by the Second Temple priesthood and plays a role in Yehudite identity formation.
James R. Davila
The Dead Sea Scrolls provide considerable evidence for a vibrant mystical tradition that involved not only theoretical musings about the heavenly realm based on scriptural exegesis, but also ritual practices closely associated with such imaginative constructs, along with an interest in transformational ascents to heaven by biblical figures and perhaps others. There is evidence that some of these mystical traditions survived and were developed by Jews and Christians in later centuries, although it is not yet entirely clear whether these survivals came from a vision mysticism common to Second Temple Judaism or from a successionist priestly mysticism derived directly from Qumran sectarianism or both, and not all scholars are convinced of a genetic link at all between the earlier and later traditions. The discussion also looks into the Hekhalot literature and early Christian mysticism.
Ezra and Nehemiah have typically commanded less attention in the history of interpretation than other heroes and heroines from the history of ancient Israel and Judah. Their place in the history of interpretation must be understood within the context of their own liminality. At the same time, however, their liminality also accorded them a connecting role between different divisions or categories, which could on occasion give them a surprisingly prominent position. They are situated between positions like exile and home, author and teacher, continuity and new beginning. While they do not fully occupy these types, they nevertheless serve to connect them, a condition that implies a strong hermeneutic potential.