Turning the page from Malachi to Matthew, we skip a lot of history.
In fact, it is something like missing several key episodes in an ongoing television saga. The setting and main plot line are familiar, but new characters have appeared and more recent events and developments are assumed.
Did anyone record the episodes we missed?
Fortunately a few did. Their reception wasn't always good, and there are annoying cuts and splices. But Anthony J. Tomasino has put together the missing episodes and skillfully retells the story of Judaism before Jesus, from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah to the Herods, and even up to Masada.
The result is an entertaining, informative and enlightening retelling of the story of Judaism and the development of the ideas, subplots and characters that shaped the world of Jesus and the first Christians.
"Judaism Before Jesus is an incisive, well-written introduction to a period crucial to understanding not only the New Testament but the entire Bible, since this is the time of the formation of the Old Testament canon. Tomasino skillfully guides the reader through the maze of sometimes confusing events and literary and material culture of these years, accurately reflecting scholarly consensus while leaving no doubts about his own views. He often shows where scholars have not yet figured things out, a critical requirement of any honest treatment. This is one of the very best overviews of Judaism in the time of Jesus that I know. I plan to use it in my own teaching. But Judaism Before Jesus is not just for students. Tomasino strikes that difficult balance between substance and presentation that all authors explaining their specialties pursue yet few accomplish. This book is just a great read."
"In Judaism Before Jesus, Anthony Tomasino offers beginning students and general readers a lucid and lively introduction to the Jewish background of the New Testament. In his preface he says, 'This book has been written for readers who wouldn't know an apocalypse from an apostrophe, or a Hyrcanus from a hurricane. It's an introduction for the uninitiated.' In my opinion, he hits a home run. Here is a skillful digest of a huge amount of information presented in engaging prose. Readers will appreciate his anticipation of basic questions and issues that arise in reading the New Testament, a feature often neglected by scholars. A glossary and pronunciation guide enhances the usefulness of this text. Especially commendable is Tomasino's sensitive treatment of the relationship between Christians and Jews. I highly recommend this book. "
"Anthony Tomasino's Judaism Before Jesus delivers what it promises. This book is the introduction to the world of the New Testament that beginning students can read and understand. It will make an excellent textbook for any New Testament course. I recommend it enthusiastically."
List of Figures
1. Putting Together the Past
2. Returning and Rebuilding
3. The Persian Impact on Judaism
4. The Greeks in the East
5. The Fight for Freedom
6. Jewish Diversity in the Hasmonean Era
7. The Second Jewish Commonwealth
8. The Hellenistic Inheritance
9. The Romans and the Jews
10. Oppression, Resistance Messianic Hope
Epilogue: Anno Domini
A Compendium of Jewish History
Glossary and Pronunciation Guide