On my desk: The fabulous Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

A “big box” arrived yesterday – The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism ed. by John Collins and Daniel Harlow. Firstly, it is huge – a whopping 1300 pages, each page about the 8.5 x 11 size (dictionary style).

This is a very untraditional dictionary as it is both textbook and encyclopedia.

The first 300 pages contain a series of “essays” on early Judaism; the next 1000 pages are the actual entries of the dictionary.

Essays include:

“Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship” (Collins)

“Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian” (Seesman and Marshak)

“Judaism in the Land of Israel” (VanderKam)

“Judaism in the Diaspora” (Gruen)

“The Jewish Scriptures: Texts, Verisons, Canons” (Ulrich)

“Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation” (Kugel)

“Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha” (Stuckenbruck)

“Dead Sea Scrolls” (Tigchelaar)

“early Jewish literature in Greek” (Berthelot)

“Archaeology, Papyri, and Inscriptions” (Zangenberg)

“Jews among Greeks and Romans” (Ben Zeev)

“Early Judaism and Early Christianity” (Harlow)

“Early Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism” (Schiffman)

I hope to have more thoughts on this fine piece of scholarship once I have dipped into more articles (I have read a handful). First impressions are that this will make a great textbook for a course on early Judaism in grad schools and seminaries. The difference between this and, let’s say, the Dictionary of New Testament Background is that this is more focused and written (not by NT scholars but) by scholars of OT and early Judaism. For most of the scholars who write for this dictionary, early Judaism is their primary area of research. Though you will find some articles by folks like James Dunn and Larry Hurtado.

In terms of utility, there is both an alphabetical list of entries in the front matter, as well as a topical list. For example, under “New Testament” you learn that articles appear on Hebrews, James, John, Jude, Luke-Acts, Mark, Matthew, the person of Paul, Petrine epistles, and Revelation. There is also a category of “Modern Interpreters of Early Judaism” which contains a list of articles on people such as Bousset, Goodenough, Hengel, Neusner, Ed. sanders, and Morton Smith, and others.

So far, the only flaw I can see is that there is no Scriptural/ancient text index. That would have been so valuable, though certainly time-consuming to produce. Anyway, do check it out. It is up-to-date, comprehensive, and also looks nice. A winning combo!