Friday, December 12, 2008

Charles Pfeiffer's 'Between the Testaments': an Amazon review

"400 silent years. Silent, not because nothing was happening, but because this is the period between the Old Testament and New Testament canonical books. And silent, also, because most of us know little or nothing about what was going on during that time. This book remedies that lack of knowledge.

Be warned: this is not a flashy book. He's giving history, not telling a story. Although the period doesn't lack for good stories: the Maccabees, Alexander, and Cleopatra among many others. Pfeiffer gives us the structure and chronology to make sense of what happened during this time period, as well as understanding the future events, especially many of the groups and individuals mentioned in the New Testament books, as well as understanding some of the background of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The book is especially good for providing background on the various Jewish sects mentioned in the New Testament: the Pharisees, the Zealots, the Sadducees and the Essenes. I disagree with Pfeiffer's assessment of a relationship between the Qumran manuscripts and the Essenes, but that doesn't detract from the value of his overview of the complex of "denominations" found in first century Palestinian Judaism.

This book is also good for giving an overview of the nature of Hellenism during this time, and the effects Hellenism had on the world into which the New Testament was born."

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