The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism May 27, 2011

I am grateful to Eerdmans for sending me a free review copy of The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism. A dictionary is particularly hard to review, and so no futile attempt will be made here to do justice to the full range of contents and contributors. Among those most directly related to my research interests I may perhaps note that there are articles on “monotheism” and “mediator figures” by Larry W. Hurtado, an entry on “Jesus of Nazareth” by E. P. Sanders, and one on the “Jesus movement” by James D. G. Dunn. These latter entries indicate one particularly interesting and useful aspect of the volume, its treatment of early Christianity as a Jewish phenomenon, within the wider spectrum of early Judaism. The same can also be said of the volume’s treatment of Gnosticism.

The volume begins with major essays introducing and giving an overview of early Judaism, the history of the period, religion in both Palestine and the Diaspora, Scripture and its interpretation, other Jewish literature, and Jewish relations to other peoples and religious traditions.

Having sought to use my own research interests as a way of narrowing in attention on specific articles and contents, the one thing that puzzled me was the lack of entries for “God,” “divine name” and/or “tetragrammaton.”

Nevertheless, the contents are fairly comprehensive, and both alphabetical and topical lists of entries enable one to find what one needs fairly easily. No reference volume can cover everything, and what is included in this volume manages to be both representative and comprehensive, providing both perspectives on both the big picture and individual details. This is an important reference volume for educational institutions and individual scholars to include on their shelves.

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