A Brief Survey of Intertestamental Period Literature

"A Brief Survey of Intertestamental Period Literature" By Robert Gorelik

A vast amount of Jewish literature written in the intertestamental period (mainly 2nd and 1st centuries BCE) and from the 1st and 2nd centuries CE was preserved, for the most part, through various Christian churches. A part of this literature is today commonly called the Apocrypha (Hidden; hence, secret books; sg. Apocryphon) ... this was one of the terms for books not regarded by the Church as canonical (scripturally acceptable), but in modern usage, the Apocrypha is the term for those Jewish books that are called in the Roman Catholic Church deuterocanonical works—i.e., those that are canonical for Catholics but are not a part of the Jewish Bible. (These works are also regarded as canonical in the Eastern Orthodox churches.) When the Protestant churches returned to the Jewish canon (the Hebrew Bible) during the Reformation period (16th century), the Catholic deuterocanonical works became for the Protestants “apocryphal”—i.e., non-canonical.

In 19th-century biblical scholarship, a new term was coined for those ancient Jewish works that were not accepted as canonical by either the Catholic or Protestant churches; such books are now commonly called Pseudepigrapha (Falsely Inscribed; sg. pseudepigraphon), i.e., books wrongly ascribed to a biblical author. The term Pseudepigrapha, however, is not an especially well suited one, not only because the pseudepigraphic character is not restricted to the Pseudepigrapha alone—and, indeed, not even all Pseudepigrapha are ascribed to any author since there are among them anonymous treatises—but also because the group of writings so designated by this name necessarily varies in the different modern collections. Theoretically, the name Pseudepigrapha can designate all ancient Jewish writings that are not canonical in the Catholic Church. The writings of the philosopher Philo of Alexandria (1st century BCE–1st century CE) and the historian Josephus (1st century CE) and fragments of other postbiblical Hellenistic Jewish historians and poets, however, usually are excluded. Rabbinic literature (2nd century BCE–2nd century CE) also is generally excluded; such literature existed for centuries only in oral form ... Some of the Jewish Pseudepigrapha were discovered only in the last two centuries, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (the first of them discovered in the 1940s), most of which belong to this category, are not yet all published. Thus, in the broader meaning of the terms, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are a bloc of Jewish literature written in antiquity from the later Persian period (c. 4th century BCE) and not canonized by the Jews.

In this Brief Survey, we are going to consider approximately 80 of these works, including the works of Philo, Josephus, and the Mishnah. And, there is, of course, a vast amount of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha associated with the Apostolic Writings which we will consider too (approximately 30 works).

Our objective over the course of this Brief Survey will be to consider the theological implications of these works and to discern to what extent they influenced Apostolic authors—and if not, where did their common source of theology come from. We will also attempt to recognize the difference between those works that were included in the Canon and those that were not and understand the reason(s) why. And finally, we will talk about the influence of both Hellenistic thought and Gnostic thought on the doctrines of the Christian Church.


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