Varieties of Judaism in the Second Temple Period
Wednesdays at 1:30 – 3 p.m. ET
During the period of Second Temple, from the late sixth century BCE to 70 CE, the Jewish people developed a wide range of traditions of religious observance, literary expression, and beliefs about God’s plan for them. Some of these developments provided the foundation for both Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity, which began as a Jewish Messianic movement. Some of these developments were rejected or ignored by both Jewish and Christian traditions until they were rediscovered in modernity in finds such as the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. This course will explore some of these phenomena, with a focus on the later Second Temple period, from 300 BCE to 100 CE. The literature sample will include visionary and apocalyptic texts such as 1 Enoch, personal and communal poetry such as the Hodayoth and Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice from Qumran, philosophical reflections from Philo, an erudite Alexandrian Jew of the first century CE, and sapiential teaching found in Ben Sira (a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus) and the Wisdom of Solomon as well as related literature from Qumran, including some halachic debates. Some of this material, especially material from the Dead Sea Scrolls, provides evidence of organized sectarian activity; others display the range of convictions and hopes held by Jews of the period prior to the development of the classics of Rabbinic Judaism.