In Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (2016, 922 pages), E. P. Sanders dares to challenge prevailing views on Second Temple Period Judaism, and readers to get familiar with the ins and outs of the religion during this specific era. Jewish readers may be surprised how the Mishnah which is of a later origin has a large part of theory in it, while the period until the destruction of the Second Temple showed a living faith amidst the Roman rulers and local kings like Herod.
Christian readers will benefit from the detailed description of the temple, the Jewish festivals, and practices like fasting, tithing, prayer, sacrifices, and purification. The religious habitat of Jesus Christ and His apostles is reconstructed from the many available sources. A series of chapters is devoted to the common Judaism. What did the ordinary Jew believe? How was it practiced in private life and community with fellow believers? Was it widespread, common, so to say? The next part of the book is on the various groups and parties in this era: Aristocrats, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and other pietists. Sanders is blessed with the gift to write accessible. The 7+ hours I spent reading in the book’s first half is inviting me to continue, however, I need to read other review copies as well. Judaism will stay in my Kindle app to unearth the second half as well.
About the author
E. P. Sanders was professor of religion successively at McMaster, Oxford, and Duke Universities and is a fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written numerous landmark books including, from Fortress Press, national award winning Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), Jesus and Judaism (1985), and Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought (2015).
I received a free review copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.