Most of the writers of the NT grew up in the world of “second Temple Judaism,” the time between the temple’s reconstruction (516 B.C.) and its final destruction (A.D. 70). This period introduced changes into the political structure, culture, and religion of the OT world.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Among the many resources about Second Temple Judaism, the most substantial are the Apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha of the OT, the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 B.C. -A.D. 50). The 1946-1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls not only provided new documents from the Second Temple era but also led to different ways of reading and understanding previously known material. The Targums (Aramaic translations and paraphrases of the Bible) and rabbinic literature (which developed over time of the NT) also provide some indirect evidence of this period. Because Second Temple Judaism overlaps with the first century, the NT itself is a primary source of information about the life, thought, conditions, and situations of that time.
THE APOCRYPHA AND PSEUDEPIGRAPHA
The Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are collections of Jewish writings from the period of Second Temple Judaism. Most of the 15 (or 14) books of the Apocrypha are included in the canon of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, and excerpts from them are still read regularly in some Anglican churches.
The word “pseudepigraph” means “false inscription” or “false title” (referring to the name of the supposed “author”). “False” is more a judgment of the names with which the writings are traditionally associated than of their content. Most of these writings represent the beliefs of distinctive groups or schools (or in some cases just individuals) connecting themselves with the name of a notable person of antiquity, such as Enoch, Noah, Moses, or Ezra. Modern collections of the pseudepigrapha contain more than 60 titles
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Thousands of documents and fragments make up the Dead Sea Scrolls. They contain parts of all OT books except Esther, as well as parts of some apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings. “Sectarian documents” are related to the organization, worship, and thought of the group that collected and wrote them.