Generations of students of Palestinian Judaism have been guided by monumental works such as Emil Schurer's History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ and Joachim Jeremias's Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, and scholarship has been shaped by the picture of Jewish belief and practice presented there. In this important new book Professor Sanders, whose Paul and Palestinian Judaism changed the course of Pauline studies, again argues against the prevailing views. He believes that flaws in method have produced a false impression of the Judaism of the period, for example, that the Pharisees were all-important and actually ran Jewish Palestine or that the Mishnah offers a description of general practice. In contrast, through thorough examination of the sources and by means of case studies, Sanders shows that what was important was 'common Judaism', the people and their observances, daily, weekly, seasonal and annual practices and the beliefs that bore directly on them. Early rabbinic legal material should be seen not as a set of rules, but as debates to be set within the context of real life, and parties such as the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes must be seen in proper relation to the Judaism of ordinary priests and people. Here then is a remarkably comprehensive presentation of Judaism as a functioning religion: the temple and its routine and festivals; questions of purity, sacrifices, tithes and taxes; common theology and hopes for the future; and descriptions of the various parties and groups culminating in an examination of the question 'who ran what?'. No other work offers such a detailed, clear and well argued account of all aspects of Jewish religion of the time. Written in a style easily accessible to any interested reader as well as to scholars, this book provides the major resource for study of Palestinian Judaism, whether by Jews or Christians, for years to come.
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