Biblical authors, like any other authors, were dependant on a vast array of literary sources from the ancient world. Many of these documents are tragically lost, but what remains provides insight into the voluminous, fascinating, complex, and dynamic literary world that shaped the expressions of faith found in the Old and New Testaments.
James H. Charlesworth's classic 2 volume compendium provides these texts in a two-volume compendium entitled The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Originally published by Yale University Press, the leading critical translation of these ancient texts is now available from Hendrickson Publishers in paperback--and at a fraction of its original price.Volume 1 contains "Apocalyptic Literature" and "Testaments" that reflect a wildly varying trend towards apocalyticism in ancient Judaism. Yet, despite the existence of this movement on the fringe of Judaism, the movement maintained a definitive influence, and produced amazing, if not disturbing, literary expressions.
There can be no doubt that these writings shaped the apocalyptic imagination of the biblical authors and helped to shape the way early Christians interpreted the promised return of Jesus Christ.If the contents of Volume 1 were not enigmatic enough, Volume 2 is, arguably, even more cryptic in its contents featuring expansions of the Hebrew Bible---legends and wisdom literature, prayers and psalms, and fragments of lost works.
While these works are not so imaginative as Volume 1 they do much to aid our understanding how the religious life of Judaism was lived and practiced in the ancient world, after the Old Testament closed, and Christianity began to emerge. As a unit, these two volumes, like no other collection of texts available, illuminates the literary, social, religious, and theological context in which the Bible was shaped. They are an indispensable tool providing great insight into how religion functioned and how it was expressed in both official and unofficial circles.
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