In “An Introduction to Early Judaism”, James C. VanderKam looks into the time in history between the Hebrew Old Testament and the Evangelical New Testament (586 BC – 70 AD) – the Inter-testamental period or the Second Temple period .
VanderKam begins by sketching the history of the period, beginning from the return of the Israelite from the Babylonian exile to the destruction of the Second Temple. VanderKam describe the history of this period in a precise and simple manner, especially in highlighting the political struggles of the time periods – taking the readers on a journey through time briefly visiting each era during the Second Temple period: the Persian period, the Hellenistic age, and the Roman period. VanderKam did an excellent job in carefully limiting the scope of history to the land of Israel and the surround regions significant during the particular time period.
However, the highlight of “An Introduction to Early Judaism” is the treatment of the literature of the Second Temple period. VanderKam reveal his knowledge of this field with the treatment of this section of his book. The literature of this period that was covered includes the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Apocalypses, Wisdom Literature, Poetic works, the work of Philo and Josephus, and other great archaeological discoveries (the Elephantine Papyri, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Masada). In the end, VanderKam gave an extensive background, analysis and commentary to each of the literary productions and archaeological discoveries.
To wrap up his survey of the Second Temple period, VanderKam looked into the leaders, groups and institutions of this time period and how it effect the events that occurred. He probed into the social structure of the Second Temple period by analyzing the people of influence and the institutions that shaped the culture during those times. This includes priests, civil rulers, the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the temple, the