Bible Review 5:1, February 1989

Bible Books

The Jews in the Greek Age

Elias J. Bickerman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988) 338 pp., $30.00

Written by one of our century’s most distinguished authorities on Jewish history of the Hellenistic period, this work represents Elias J. Bickerman’s scholarly last will and testament. It appears some seven years after his death. The Jews in the Greek Age attempts an appraisal of the cultural, economic, social and, especially, religious currents among Jews, both in Palestine and the Diaspora, during the period from Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E.a to the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes in 175 B.C.E. If we compare it with another recent magisterial work on the same subject, Martin Hengel’s Judaism and Hellenism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), we see how much restraint Bickerman shows in his treatment of evidence. He refuses to use as evidence any works composed after the period with which he is dealing and refuses to refer to movements when the evidence for them points to an era after his time frame. Thus, unlike Hengel, Bickerman includes almost no references to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Dead Sea Sect or the rabbis who lived after this period, nor to the apparently extraordinary success of Jewish proselytism, because the hard evidence for all of these comes from a later period.

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