Review by Choice Review
Collins (Yale) and Harlow (Calvin College) here provide the field of early Judaism with a much-needed, single-volume reference. Although other, larger works--e.g., the Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by D. N. Freedman et al. (CH, Apr'93, 30-4131), and Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by F. Skolnik (CH, Sep'07, 45-0038)--address similar topics, they are somewhat cumbersome for novices and too broad for experts. Collins and Harlow address a narrower subject in greater depth. Included are 13 essays by very prolific scholars in Second Temple and early rabbinic Judaism, including James VanderKam ("Judaism in the Land of Israel"), Erich Gruen ("Judaism in the Diaspora"), James Kugel ("Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation"), and Lawrence Schiffman ("Early Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism"). These introductory essays not only provide readers with substantial background for the 520 entries that follow, but also serve as a suitable prolegomenon for students.The extensive entries--written by a diverse and experienced group of scholars--address many subject areas pertinent to early Judaism, including various forms of literature; ancient and modern authors; religious groups, movements, beliefs, and institutions; and various social, cultural, and political topics. Also included is an impressive sampling of geographic and archaeological topics, well-illustrated with black-and-white photographs and maps. Following the entries are fairly extensive bibliographies. One curious shortcoming is the lack of a comprehensive index to enhance the entry lists (alphabetical and by subject). Accordingly readers need some previous knowledge to look up information on, e.g., specific Hasmonaean dynasts, which lack separate entries. Another problem surrounds the nebulous period of "early Judaism." While the volume's preface favors a period from Alexander to Bar Kokhba (332 BCE-135 CE), several entries--especially those relating to archaeology and rabbinics--extend beyond this range. Minor flaws aside, this is an important and highly useful volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty. S. H. Werlin University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
The historical period of Judaism covered in this dictionary begins with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late fourth century BCE and runs through the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the fourth decade of the second century CE. Put another way, this volume addresses the evidence for Judaism in the time between the Hebrew Bible and the compilation of the Mishnah, which signaled the start of the period often called rabbinic Judaism. The 520 dictionary entries are preceded by 13 introductory essays that treat major aspects of Judaism in this period, such as Jewish life and belief in both Israel and the Diaspora; Jewish literature written in Greek; and archaeology, papyri, and inscriptions. The entries, written by an international team of scholars, thoroughly cross-referenced, and including supplemental bibliographies, provide detailed information for topics mentioned in the introductory essays and much more. Texts from this period figure prominently, including specific documents from the caves at Qumran, books of the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and Hellenistic Jewish works, as do religious beliefs and practices, such as Atonement and Fasting. Fascinating entries such as Athletics, Diet in Palestine, and Women go beyond the religious, offering a glimpse of how people lived at this time and how societies were organized. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the last century resulted in invigorated interest in this period. The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism is an outstanding reference work that not only introduces this important era but also serves as a status report for scholarly activity in this area over the past few decades. Highly recommended for theological, research, and large public libraries.--McConnell, Christopher Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.