A Review Article -- By: Don Garlington

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:4 (Fall 2001)
Article: A Review Article
Author: Don Garlington


A Review Article

Don Garlington

The Survivors Of Israel: A Reconsideration Of The Theology Of Pre-Christian Judaism, Mark Adam Elliott. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. 760 pages, paper, $50.00. Don Garlington

Recent days have seen the appearance of a significant new volume on the theology of Second Temple Judaism. This book of very impressive proportions is intended to establish a “systematic theology” of Judaism as represented by the apocalyptic portions of the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls (4). Its author is aware of the pitfalls of such a systematizing approach; and his sensitivity is all the more appreciated, I might add, in the face of the heavy criticisms of E. P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism, viz., that Sanders tried to impose a uniformity on the texts of Second Temple Judaism which, by the very nature of the case, defies such classification.1 Nevertheless, Elliott, in my view, is justified in redressing the balance back from a more fragmentary approach to a methodology that is aware of the “community of nature” (my phrase) that exists among the variegated documents of pre-destruction Judaism. Elliott’s selection of texts, as he admits, is limited, as is inevitably the case, given the sheer mass of literature available. In his words, his preference is

to canvass “a single chronologically and ideologically circumscribed movement in Judaism” rather than “the entire Jewish world over lengthy periods of time” (11). “The point to be made here is that it is only by grouping writings of a similar social milieu that one can adequately determine the social context and solve the various questions of literary function—and thus arrive at the all-important levels of meaning intended by the author” (11).

The purpose of the book is stated clearly: “to offer a vital prolegomena to the study of New Testament origins” (12). Integral to this purpose is that the New Testament itself belongs centrally, not peripherally, to the literary world of Second Temple Judaism, a point often overlooked, if not rejected, by a traditional dogmatic/confessional reading of the New Testament. Even so, Elliott maintains that his study also functions as study of Judaism in its own right.

Elliott characterizes the literature under consideration as “sectarian.” He does not entirely discount the theory, propounded chiefly by Norman Golb, that at least some of the scrolls found at Qumran may have been the product of other groups than the Dead Sea community itself. Nevertheless, they do represent a certain mindset, preserve a more or less common point of view and ste...

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