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The Forgotten Jewish Texts That Came after the Bible

July 13 2017

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the middle of the last century, together with the mining of the ancient texts found in the Cairo Genizah, has given scholars access to a wide range of Jewish religious texts composed in the approximately four centuries between the end of the biblical period and the composition of the Mishnah (the earlier stratum of the Talmud) around 200 CE. In Outside the Bible, three distinguished scholars of ancient Judaism have brought together translations of these works. Hindy Najman writes in her review:

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars assumed that there was some kind of closing of the canon in the Maccabean period [the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE] or even slightly later, in the 1st century CE. References to the 24, or 22, books or occasional allusions to the end of prophecy were often cited to justify this hypothesis. Of course, this presupposed that there was already something like a canon, a set of texts that approximated our present-day Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, and that other ancient Jewish texts stood outside of this collection.

What the biblical manuscripts discovered at Qumran definitively showed was that the canon didn’t close in the Second Temple period, indeed that it is anachronistic to think in these terms. Texts such as Jubilees show that new works were being written that continue to make comparable claims [about their own importance and sanctity] to Deuteronomy and Chronicles, while others, such as Philo’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus, interpret and develop already established authoritative biblical works. This demonstrates both that biblical books were being authorized and stabilized on the one hand and that there was ongoing and continuous writing of texts that can only be described as biblical on the other. Revelation did not end with the advent of interpretation.

The [old] schematic understanding of the history of Judaism as occurring in two [distinct] phases—first the Bible and then rabbinic interpretation of the Bible—is, in short, deeply mistaken.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Second Temple

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen