Monday, August 04, 2003

Cambridge History of Judaism

During the recent discussions of early Islamic history, some people asked about things to read to learn about the origins of monotheistic religions in general. That's a tall order, especially since it's not really what I work on, and even on Islam I need to check a book in my office to be sure I get it right.

One work I can recommend, though, and that should help out on the Judaism front: The Cambridge History of Judaism. This is a multi-volume project still being published - so far the first three are out which go up through the Roman Empire. They are fairly comprehensive - the Roman volume has over 1000 pages, but if you really want to learn the current state of research, this is the place to go. They are are little different from most Cambridge histories, though, in that their chapters are more topical than chronological. Hence, instead of something like "The Age of Simon Bar Kokhba" you have stuff like "Rabbis in the Second Century." I'll also voice my major disappointment: It starts with the Persian period, when I happen to be a fan of the kingdom period, when you had all the struggling over the pre-eminence or acceptability of different sanctuaries in conjunction to the politics of Israel and later Judah. But you can still get some of that from Britannica's entry on History of Judaism.


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