Do you want to understand Jesus of Nazareth, his apostles, and the rise of early Christianity? Reading the Old Testament is not enough, writes Matthias Henze in this slender volume aimed at the student of the Bible. To understand the Jews of the Second Temple period, it’s essential to read what they wrote—and what Jesus and his followers might have read—beyond the Hebrew scriptures. Henze introduces the four-century gap between the Old and New Testaments and some of the writings produced during this period (different Old Testaments, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls); discusses how these texts have been read from the Reformation to the present, emphasizing the importance of the discovery of Qumran; guides the student’s encounter with select texts from each collection; and then introduces key ideas found in specific New Testament texts that simply can’t be understood without these early Jewish “intertestamental” writings—the Messiah, angels and demons, the law, and the resurrection of the dead. Finally, he discusses the role of these writings in the “parting of the ways” between Judaism and Christianity. Mind the Gap broadens curious students’ perspectives on early Judaism and early Christianity and welcomes them to deeper study.
In Their Own Words: Henze says
The purpose of Mind the Gap is to introduce the reader to the Jewish world of Jesus. Jesus was not a Christian, he was a practicing Jew. But this is only a phrase with no real meaning, unless we can say more about Jesus’s Judaism and why it is important today to acknowledge that Jesus was deeply immersed in the Judaism of his days. The Old Testament is of little help here: Jesus was called a Rabbi, but there are no Rabbis in the Old Testament; Jesus talks to the Pharisees, but there are no Pharisees in the Old Testament; on the Sabbath day, Jesus goes to the synagogue, but there are no synagogues in the Old Testament. For us to understand the world of Jesus, his practices, beliefs, and teachings, we need to understand his Judaism. And to understand his Judaism, we need to read beyond the Bible. We need to read the rich Jewish literature of the late Second Temple period.
Distinctive Features: Henze says
Mind the Gap is written in such a way that it doesn’t presuppose any knowledge of the history or literature of the time of Jesus. It is an accessible introduction to the world of Early Judaism, an crucially important period in the history of ancient Judaism. This was a time of unprecedented creativity, in which Judaism changed in many fundamental ways. It was also a time that produced significant religious leaders, such as Jesus, Hillel, and many others.
Henze is a recognized name in the field, a more than trustworthy guide to properly using Jewish literature to illuminate the study of the New Testament.
About the Author:
Matthias Henze holds the Watt J. and Lilly G. Jackson Chair in Biblical Studies at Rice University. He has written numerous books and scholarly articles in early Jewish and biblical studies. He edited Biblical Interpretation at Qumran (2005), A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism (2012), and authored Jewish Apocalypticism in Late First-Century Israel (2011), and is preparing the Hermeneia commentary on 2 Baruch.