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The Makers and Teachers of Judaism   By: (1867-1925)

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The Historical Bible









The period represented by this volume is in many ways the most complex and confusing in Israel's history. The record is not that of the life of a nation but of the scattered remnants of a race. It was inevitable that under the influence of their varied environment, the survivors of the Jewish race should develop very different beliefs and characteristics. The result is that many different currents of thought and shades of belief are reflected in the literature of this period; some of it is dross, but much of it is purest gold. While the period following the destruction of Jerusalem was a reflective and a retrospective age in which the teaching of the earlier priests and prophets gained wide acceptance, it was also a creative era. Fully half of the literature of the Old Testament and all of the important writings of the Apocrypha come from these tragic five centuries. Although the historical records are by no means complete, the great crises in Israel's life are illuminated by such remarkable historical writings as the memoirs of Nehemiah, the first book of Maccabees, and the detailed histories of Josephus.

The majority of the writings, however, reveal above all the soul of the race. Out of its anguish and suffering came the immortal poems found in Isaiah 40 66, the book of Job, and the Psalter. Instead of the distinctly nationalistic point of view, which characterizes practically all of the writings of the pre exilic period, the interest becomes individual and the outlook universal. During these centuries Israel's prophets, priests, and sages became not merely teachers of the nation but of humanity. Conspicuous among the great teachers of his day stands the noble sage, Jesus the son of Sirach, who gleaned out and presented in effective form that which was most vital in the earlier teaching of his race. In his broad, simple faith in God and man, in his emphasis on deeds and character, as well as ceremonial, and in his practical philosophy of life he was a worthy forerunner of the Great Teacher whose name he bore.

This period represents the culmination and fruition of the divine Influences at work in Israel's early history. It was during this period that Judaism was born and attained its full development, Israel accepted the absolute rule of the written law, and the scribes succeeded the earlier prophets and sages. Out of the heat and conflict of the Maccabean struggle the parties of the Pharisees and Sadducees sprang into existence and won their commanding place in the life of Judaism. Hence this period is the natural historical introduction to the study of the birth and early development of Christianity. It is also the link that binds the revelation found in the Old Testament to that of the New.

The volume of literature coming from this period is so vast that it has been necessary to abridge it at many points in order to utilize that which is most valuable. This has been done by leaving out those passages which are of secondary origin or value, and by preserving at the same time the language and logical thought of the original writers. In the verbose and voluminous writings of Josephus the resulting text is in most cases far clearer and more useful; for the repetitious clauses found in the original often obscure the real thought of the writer. No apology or explanation is required for the use of such apocryphal writings as I Maccabees, Ben Sira, the Wisdom of Solomon, or Josephus's histories, for these are required to bridge the two centuries which intervene between the latest writings of the Old Testament and the earliest writings of the New. They make it possible to study biblical history as an unbroken unit from the days of Moses to the close of the first Christian century, and thus concretely to emphasize the significant but often the forgotten fact that God was revealing himself unceasingly through the life of his people, and that the Bible which records that revelation consists not of two disconnected parts but is one book... Continue reading book >>

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