Friday, October 31, 2014

Between the Testaments

Between the Testaments
© 1960 D.S. Russell
176 pages



            The sudden eruption of Christianity from Judaism is inexplicable when considering only the Protestant Bible.  From nowhere burst the Trinity, Satan as a rebel, and an obsession with the afterlife. But Christianity’s birth is less miraculous than it seems, and Between the Testaments demonstrates the birds and the bees. A short review of  Jewish history, material and cultural, establishes the background for the rise of Christianity. Scholarly without being cerebral, D.T. Russell’s survey draws on Josephus’ History as well as Jewish writings not collected in Judaism's official canon.  Russell’s review includes a history of  cultural conflict between the Jews and Hellenism, an outline of the Jewish sects that developed within that conflict (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, etc), and a review of the Jewish works aforementioned. Of particular interest to me was the influence of Zoroastrian dualism and the Apocalyptic tradition, which established the yearning for a Messiah who would conclude the raging battle between good and evil with a decisive victory for the Good. Even if Christians choose to regard the deuterocanonicals as 'less' than inspired, the extent to which they are quoted by New Testament authors begs consideration. In addition, Russell's history covers Judaism's shift from focus on the Temple to focus on the Torah;  thus here we see not only the metaphysical framework that Christianity will eventually build on, but the origin of contemporary Judaism,  a liturgical religion led by rabbis instead of a ritual one led by priests.  Between the Testaments is particularly strong as a reference source because it's more of a review than a presented argument. The facts are given, and conclusions left to the reader's drawing.

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