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Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period

Many Bible readers assume that between the end of the Christian Old Testament/the Jewish Tanak and the New Testament a period of literary silence shaped the Jewish community. These centuries are known as the Second Temple period, referring to the temple that Jews rebuilt upon return from Babylonian exile, beginning in the late 6th century BCE. This temple was dramatically expanded by King Herod, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. During those centuries, faithful Jews were edited and copied the Torah, but also wrote much other material, including scripture commentary, wisdom reflection, and historical accounts. In this class we will consider a number of the texts from the Second Temple period, including history such as 1-2 Maccabees, romance such as Tobit, and wisdom reflection such as Ben Sira/Sirach. In addition to these writings, known in some circles as the Apocrypha, we will also take a look at additional pseudepigraphical writings such as 1 Enoch. We will talk about the role that these texts played among the various Jewish groups that developed under Hellenistic and Roman domination, and consider how Jews and Christians today use them. Nancy Heisey taught biblical studies and church history at Eastern Mennonite University for over 20 years. She completed as PhD in religion at Temple University, with a concentration in text historical studies. Her recent research is on the historical development of the writings that became part of the Jewish and Christian canons. She also studied in France, and worked in Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These experiences, along with growing up among the Navajo people of New Mexico, shaped her fascination with language learning.

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