Israel in the Persian Period

The Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.E.


Although the Persians are seldom mentioned explicitly in the Hebrew Bible, the Persian period (539–331 B.C.E.) gave new shape to ancient Israel, as the biblical text evolved and the foundations of the Judeo-Christian tradition were laid. Therefore, contrary to earlier views, Persian politics, culture, and religion were the setting within which the nascent Jewish community lived and took shape. Against the backdrop of the history and intellectual world of Persia, Gerstenberger describes this exciting 200-year period in the history of Israel, which saw both the creation of biblical literature (historical, prophetic, and poetic writings, especially the Psalms) and important theological developments (e.g., the shape and characteristics of the Jewish community, monotheism, and new means of shaping one’s world).
Biographical Note
Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Professor of Old Testament at Philipps-Universität Marburg, received his Ph.D. in 1961 from the University of Bonn, where he studied under such luminaries as Martin Noth and Otto Plöger. Since then he has authored numerous articles, essays, and books, including Der bittende Mensch: Bittritual und Klagelied des Einzelnen im Alten Testament (WMANT; 1980), Psalms: Part 1, with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry (FOTL; 1988), Das 3. Buch Mose: Leviticus (ATD; 1993), Yahweh the Patriarch (1996), Psalms: Part 2, with Lamentations (FOTL; 2001), and Theologies in the Old Testament (2002).
Table of contents
Preface Abbreviations Map 1: Th e Empire of the Medes and Persians Maps 2 and 3: Th e Yehud Province Table of Persian Nations I. The Biblical Portrait of the Period I.1. Return and Reconstruction I.2. Provincial Structure of Judah: The Shaping of the Community I.3. Further Traces of Persian Life I.4. Analysis of the Biblical Portrayal II. The Known History II.1. Sources II.1.1. Literary Traditions II.1.2. Artifacts and Architecture II.2. Th e Persian Empire II.2.1. Imperial Structures II.2.2. Th e Course of History Chronological Table II.2.3. Religion in Ancient Persia II.2.4. Everyday Life and Culture II.3. Judah in Trans-Euphrates II.3.1. Judah versus Samaria Excursus: Th e Rise of Jerusalem as the Holy City II.3.2. Th e Actors in the Drama II.3.2.1. Nehemiah II.3.2.2. Ezra II.3.2.3. Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel II.3.2.4. Th e Elders II.3.3. Social and Community Structures II.3.4. Economy; Local Politics Excursus: Debt and Debt Relief in the Ancient East II.3.5. Technology and Culture II.3.6. Folk Religion and Temple II.4. Th e Diaspora in Babylon and Egypt II.4.1. Exiles in Babylon II.4.2. Th e Military Colony of Elephantine II.4.2.1. Flight to Egypt? II.4.2.2. Everyday Life and Social Structure II.4.2.3. Confession of Yahweh and Cult II.4.2.4. Relationship to Jerusalem III. Biblical Literature of the Period III.1. Original Writings III.1.1. Narratival and Standardizing Aspects III.1.1.1. Chronicles III.1.1.2. Ezra and Nehemiah III.1.1.3. Priestly Writings III.1.1.4. Novellas (Joseph, Ruth, Jonah) III.1.2. Prophetic Writings III.1.2.1. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi Excursus: Messiah and the End of the World III.1.2.2. Trito-Isaiah III.1.2.3. Further Prophetic Writings? III.1.3. Poetical, Liturgical Writings III.1.3.1. Collections of Psalms III.1.3.2. Types of Psalms Excursus: Communal Instruction as Life Setting III.1.3.3. Collections of Proverbs, Wisdom III.1.3.4. Megilloth III.2. Revisions of Older Writings III.2.1. Historical Narratives (Dtr) Excursus: Prophets, Torah and Community III.2.2. Prophetic Books III.2.2.1. Th e Book of the Twelve III.2.2.2. Isaiah III.2.2.3. Jeremiah III.2.2.4. Ezekiel Excursus: Oracles to the Community in Ezekiel III.2.3. Th e Th ird Part of the Canon III.2.3.1. Psalter III.2.3.2. Job III.2.3.3. Proverbs III.2.4. Torah (Pentateuch) III.2.4.1. Conditions of Origin Excursus: Why Holy Scriptures? III.2.4.2. Priestly and Deuteronomistic Basis III.2.4.3. Supplementing with Ancient Narratives III.2.4.4. Primeval History III.2.4.5. Conclusion of the Pentateuch IV. Th eological Contribution IV.1. Background: Babylonian and Persian Spirituality IV.2. Genesis of Ecclesial Structures IV.2.1. Identifi cation and Delimitation IV.2.2. Spiritual Profi le of the Community IV.2.3. Gender in the Community IV.2.4. Festivals, Worship, Rituals IV.3. On the Way to Monotheism Excursus: What Is Monotheism? IV.3.1. Transformations of Ideas of God IV.3.2. Universalism and Particularism IV.3.3. Creation of the World and of Humans IV.3.4. History and the End of the World IV.4. Ethos of Brotherliness in the Community of Faith IV.4.1. Love and Righteousness IV.4.2. Sanctifi cation and Separation IV.4.3. Universality and Tolerance IV.5. Impulses for Shaping the World IV.5.1. Dialogue with Tradition IV.5.2. Human Relations IV.5.3. Ideas of God IV.5.4. Global Society IV.5.5. Unity and Plurality Today Index of Ancient Sources Index of Names and Subjects
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