Rebecca’s Children. Judaism and Christianity in the Roman WorldAlan F. Segal (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986) 207 pp., $20.00.
This book presents a first-rate summary of the history of the Jews, inclusive of the earliest phase of Christianity, from the destruction of the First Temple to the end of the first century of the Common Era. Segal surveys these topics: Israel between empires; society in the time of Jesus; Jesus, the Jewish revolutionary; Paul, the convert and apostle; origins of the rabbinic movement; communities in conflict; the ways divide. The book is well researched and written to be read.
The good news about this book is that it presents an absolutely first-class account of current research on its subject. The bad news is that the book contains not a single proposition that may confidently assigned to its author’s original research.
More good news is that the book invokes current social scientific theories to interpret the data. The bad news is that the theories vary from chapter to chapter, and more often than not contradict one another.