“Sectarian” Traditions of the Second Temple Period

In a previous post, I commented on the importance of the Old Testament pseudepigrapha for 21st century Christians and Jews. Click here to read the original post.

As I was reading through The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible of Theology, Volume I (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), S. Dean McBride Jr. notes, during his discussion of Exodus, an important shift necessary in biblical studies:

From this new perspective [of multiple redactions of the Hebrew Bible] it has become much more difficult to make a sharp distinction between early “biblical” texts of Exodus and derivative literature such as the pseudepigraphical book of Jubilees and the Qumran Temple Scroll. The latter works, which provide precedents for the interpretative paraphrases of scripture found only a little later in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, among others, can no longer be marginalized as merely sectarian or of peripheral significance in the development of classical Jewish though.

In other words, the breadth of Jewish literature during the Second Temple Period should be taken into consideration to properly trace the developments of biblical theology and the redactions of Hebrew Bible texts, or edits that have formed the bible people generally read in the 21st century. And, more importantly, writings should not be dismissed as insignificant due to their “sectarian” nature. No longer should Pseudepigraphal traditions be considered “sectarian”. People who value the Hebrew Bible, whether Jew or Christian, must consider this shift because it adds a new layer of depth and insight to their respective holy books. The question, though, is how this may be accomplished.

To use the basic argument of Benjamin Sommer in Revelation and Authority (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015), these layers must also be considered part of Jewish interpretation and traditions, or Christian. So rather than their dismissal, they should be embraced in order to demonstrate how different people in different times adjusted theological thrusts and goals to fit their own socio-political context. After all, the same thing is done for Bible believers in the 21st century.

But this change must first fully shift within the academic world, a shift with which I struggle. Only when the academy shifts its thinking completely will lay persons begin to see that the shift is not the demise of their Truth in the Hebrew Bible but an addition to the depth of Truth within the Hebrew Bible.