It may seem amiss for this blog to recommend the reading and study of books external to the Bible – anything “non-canonical” or “uninspired.” Actually, it isn’t.
This blog is called the Naked Bible because I want to present the Bible unfiltered through creeds and traditions that are imposed on it or presumably distilled from it and then turned back on it like some sort of inspired commentary. That sort of material is not the same kind of material as texts that are contemporary with the Bible. The latter texts help us recover and discern the context of the Bible itself – the intellectual, historical, religious contexts of the biblical writers. When we are able to think like the biblical writers, we situate the Bible in its own world — not a world subsequent to it that looks back on the Bible. Any context other than the one that produced a given biblical book is by definition a foreign context to the biblical material.
One of the best ways to think like a biblical writer is to read the intellectual output of the cultures contemporary to the biblical writer. This helps us process the biblical material in light of the worldview of the people who produced the Bible. It enables us to understand the biblical content the way someone living at the time would have understood it. It helps us discern intellectual overlaps and divergences for proper interpretation.
This recent essay by Prof. Lawrence Schiffman is recommended as a general nudge for readers to read this sort of material. It’s a nice overview of things like the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.
That is a nice overview essay. I also agree that many Bible students think sola scriptura means that “anything ‘non-canonical’ or ‘uninspired'” should not be studied (or even that it is “evil” in the case of the Apocrypha).
However, since the material is so vast, it would be interesting to get your opinion as to where to start (I would say Josephus and the Aprocrypha–I also find the Letter of Aristeas very interesting and I was suprised that Gabe did not cite it in his blog post on the Septuagint).
If you are talking about the Apocrypha, I’d get deSilva’s introduction to it and then one of the several English translations. A good intro to Josephus relevant for NT study is Mason’s book on Josephus and the NT.
Will the three volumes be rendered in digital for Logos?
Outside the Bible, 3-Volume Set: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture
How much overlap would there be between “Outside the Bible” and the “Legends of the Jews” text available from Logos?
From the Logos description, it’s referred to as a “comprehensive compilation” of pre-Mishnaic texts, so I would expect some overlap, though without a list of the texts available in “Outside the Bible” I really can’t compare them myself. The “Outside the Bible” texts, however, seem to selections drawn from other contemporary texts (eg Dead Sea Scrolls, septuagint, apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, etc).
Legends would include lots of (and largely) rabbinic material.
MSH, are there more comprehensive works out there for Rabbinic materials?
depends what you mean – for NT study or rabbinics itself?
For Rabbinics itself.
If you want a reference resource, then Strack and Billerbeck is the cat’s meow. It’s expensive and in German, but my employer is having it translated and digitized:
If you want a book on rabbinic material in general, there are a couple good orientations:
Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) by Jacob Neusner
Judaism and the Interpretation of Scripture: Introduction to the Rabbinic Midrash
A current best-selling resource that is commentary, but nowhere near the level of Strack-Billerbeck is:
The Jewish Annotated New Testament, ed. Amy-Jill Levine
Thanks for the recommendations, MSH! In fact, I had already jumped onto the prepub for the translation of Strack-Billerbeck before commenting on your blog, so I’m deeply excited to see that resource made available. It looks like it could be extraordinarily helpful, though I’m surprised that it hasn’t been translated into English before now. Thanks for the other suggestions, though. I’ll definitely keep them in mind.
Speaking of Ancient Hebrew, What has happened to the Ancient Hebrew poetry blog ? Has John given blogging up or what ? hope all is well.
Not sure. Have you asked him?
Thanks for the essay, Dr Heiser. It makes its point well.
For myself, I found that learning the extra biblical sources could be hard simply because there are so many and they are so diverse in context and content. You almost need to read books just to understand which books to read. To that end, I’ve been trying to put together a basic list of early source collections (around Logos) to assist the process.
Thank you for your work!
I hear you! You’re welcome.