This unit explores the texts and communities of Second Temple Judaism. The extraordinary discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and continued study of other ancient manuscripts have prompted renewed appreciation for the diversity of Judaism in this period. Meanwhile biblical scholarship since the second half of the 20th century has underscored what is at stake in seeking to understand these sources on their own terms. This unit will introduce some key ancient personalities and texts—from, for instance, the Maccabean literature, Philo, and Josephus, to the Dead Sea Scrolls and apocalyptic literature—and explore themes that arise as matters of primary theological, cosmological, and political significance for the writers. In addition to dealing with texts that are intrinsically interesting, the unit will be of great value to anyone wanting to go on to further study in Hebrew Bible, Judaism, or New Testament, or simply wanting to attend better to the essential context of the New Testament writers.

Unit code: BS3090P

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 3

Unit discipline: Biblical Studies

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Apply skills in close reading of ancient texts.


Articulate the key themes of a selection of Jewish texts that survive from the Second Temple period.


Identify elements of continuity and discontinuity in historical and theological themes that emerge across this literature.


Facilitate discussion, drawing on independent reading and reflection, about a key text/writer.


Reflect critically on the implications of the diverse treatments of key themes across the selected literature for New Testament interpretation

Unit sequence

15 points in Field B


The three-hour weekly class will generally be divided into: one hour outlining and exploring a key text or writer; one hour on a key theme arising from Jewish literature of the period which is particularly (but not exclusively) relevant to that writer/text; and a discussion of a specific set passage of primary text. The first two hours will comprise presentation and discussion led by the lecturer; the final hour will begin with a student presentation introducing the passage and then a discussion co-led by the student and lecturer. To support postgraduate students in developing the theme and argumentation of their major essays, the final weeks will include brief descriptions of emerging essay questions from postgraduates, which will also provide a model of essay development for undergraduate students.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Charlesworth, James H., ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols. ABRL. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983-1985.
  • Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.
  • Howell Chapman, Honora and Zuleika Rodgers, eds. A Companion to Josephus. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.
  • Lim, Timothy and John J. Collins, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Najman, Hindy. Losing the Temple and Recovering the Future: An Analysis of 4 Ezra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Neusner, Jacob, William Scott Green, and Ernest Frerichs, eds. Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Nickelsburg, George W. E. Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981.
  • Rajak, Tessa. Translation and Survival: The Greek Bible of the Ancient Jewish Diaspora. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Sanders, E. P. Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63BCE-66CE. London: SCM Press, 1992.
  • Seland, Torrey, ed. Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria. Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2014.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Essay 3500 words)

0 70.0

Report (on a primary text) (500 words)

0 10.0
Oral Presentation

Oral presentation (15 min) (1000 words)

0 20.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 5 Sep, 2018

Unit record last updated: 2019-02-22 10:12:45 +1100