Creation, Covenant, and the Beginnings of Judaism

Reconceiving Historical Time in the Second Temple Period


This study examines the relationship between time and history in Second Temple literature. Numerous sources from that period express a belief that Jewish history began with an act of covenant formation and proceeded in linear fashion until the exile, an unprecedented event which severed the present from the past. The authors of Ben Sira, Jubilees, the Animal Apocalypse, and 4 Ezra responded to this theological challenge by claiming instead that Jewish history began at creation. Between creation and redemption, history unfolds as a series of static, repeating patterns that simultaneously account for the disappointments of the Second Temple period and confirm the eternal nature of the covenant. As iterations of timeless, cyclical patterns, the difficult post-exilic present and the glorious redemption of the future emerge as familiar, unremarkable, and inevitable historical developments.

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Ari Mermelstein, Ph.D. (2011), New York University, is Assistant Professor of Bible at Yeshiva University. His research focuses on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple literature.
1: Introduction: The Relationship Between Time and History in Second Temple Literature
2: Wisdom of Ben Sira: Jewish History as the Unfolding of Creation
3: Wisdom of Ben Sira: Timelessness in Support of the Temple-State
4: The Book of Jubilees: Timeless Dimensions of a Covenantal Relationship
5: The Animal Apocalypse: The Timeless Symbols of History
6: Fourth Ezra: Time and History as Theological Critique
7: Synthesis and Conclusions
All those interested in Second Temple literature, history, and thought, creation or covenant theology, religious perspectives on history, and the relationship between time and history.
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