Israel between 200 BCE and 70 CE was a complex society affected by the domination of empires past and present. Political, social, economic and religious aspects will be studied. People such as the Samaritans, Sadducees, Pharisees, the Dead Sea Sect (Essenes?), the Zealots, and the poor, will feature, as will attitudes to women, the main Jewish festivals, modes of worship and their institutions. Sources, which include some Biblical and apocalyptic books, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the works of the Jewish historian Josephus, and of Philo the Jewish philosopher, will be explored. Together these illuminate the world of Jesus.

Unit code: BS9501Y

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Biblical Studies

Proposing College: Yarra Theological Union

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate familiarity with the political, social, economic and religious history of the people of Israel from c.200 BCE to c.70 CE


Incorporate archaeological data where it is available and use it critically in conjunction with the literary evidence


Exegete passages from the primary texts with the aid of commentaries


Assign a piece of literature to a genre and be aware of the methodologies used to interpret various genres


Critically evaluate the ways in which, and why, theological ideas about how to live in accordance with God’s wishes were diverse


Analyse how life in all its aspects in Judea and the diaspora were affected by other nations, cultures or religions.

Unit sequence

Prerequisite: one foundational unit in BA, BN or BS. This unit provides necessary background materials for New Testament Studies.


This unit examines the broader context of Jesus and the available sources, both literary and material, as well as scholarly views about these. The student will, with the successful completion of the unit, have a better understanding of many features of the New Testament writings.

Indicative Bibliography

Secondary Works

  • Vanderkam, J.C., An Introduction to Early Judaism. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2001
  • Heyler, L.R., Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students. Downers Grove, Il: Intervarsity Press, 2002
  • Schürer, E., A History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (rev. ed.), Vols. 1, 2, 3, 3.2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979-1986
  • Sanders, E.P. (ed), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol. 2. London, SCM, 1981.
  • Portier-Young, A.E., Apocalyptic Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 2014
  • Collins, J.J., Between Athens and Jerusalem. Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge UK: Eerdmans, 2000

Primary Sources in addition to the Bible:

  • Charlesworth, J.H., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vols 1&2. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1983-85.
  • Garcia Martinez, F., The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: the Qumran Texts in English. Trans. W.G.E. Watson. Leiden/New York/ Cologne: Brill, 1994
  • Philo of Alexandria, Works. Trans. F.H. Colson, and G.H. Whittaker, Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass: Heinemann/Harvard University Press, various dates.
  • Josephus, The Works of Josephus. Trans. W. Whiston, Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1987


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

4,000 word essay

0 60.0
Exegetical Essay

2,000 word exegetical essay

0 40.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 19 Jul, 2018

Unit record last updated: 2019-02-25 14:30:19 +1100