The study of Jewish and Christian history in antiquity is experiencing a renaissance. Textual witnesses and archaeological sites are being reevaluated and revisited. As a result, author Leo Sandgren asserts that the relationship between Jews and Christians has shifted from a “mother-daughter” paradigm to one better described as “siblings.”
Recognizing that Judaism and Christianity are what they are because of each other and that they were not formed in isolation, Sandgren provides readers and researchers a comprehensive generation-by-generation political history of the Jews—from the fall of the First Temple to the start of the Middle Ages. With a good subject index and a strong chronological framework, this book is a convenient work on this extended period of antiquity. Making use of numerous contemporary studies as well as often neglected classics, Sandgren thoroughly develops the concept of “the people of God” and the core ideology behind Jewish and Christian self-definition.
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The author charts the history of this expansive period in striking detail and with formidable accuracy and clarity of expression, with a focus on the implications for the complex relationship between Judaism and emergent Christianity. The coverage of the period before the appearance of Christianity demonstrates the profound influence of both Persian and Hellenistic cultures on Judaism—an important condition that would subsequently play a role in the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Sandgren does justice to the complexity of this relationship and its distinctive features both in various regions and over the course of time. His close attention to the history of the relationship also helps avoid simple explanations for both the antipathy that marked this relationship in the early centuries and the startling examples of peaceful coexistence and interaction . . . it is very rewarding reading for anyone who perseveres through the deep scan of history its author provides.
—The Bible Today
[Sandgren] presents Jews and Christians as siblings, emerging in the first centuries of the Common Era, with a common ancestry. . . . This he does in great historical detail, including maps and lists of prominent figures. . . . He reflects the latest scholarship; footnotes give ample scope for further exploration. This book is an invaluable source of information . . . More than that, it contributes to the ongoing dialogue between Jews and Christians by looking anew at their early history, and asking difficult questions about the relationship between rhetoric and reality.
—Theological Book Review
The book . . . chronicl[es] how proto-Judaism became both Judaism and Christianity and how the two groups influenced each other up until the rise of Islam. In addition, Sandgren adds helpful maps and charts and an important synthesis at the end of each section. He also adds an extensive and useful epilogue explaining some of the other issues pertaining to a modern Jewish-Christian dialogue. . . . His detail is impeccable and his research has depth and is readable. This book does many things well, including showing the complexities of the shared history of Judaism and Christianity. In addition, the comprehensive bibliography includes both Jewish and Christian sources that should be important to both groups. This book is well written and convincing on many of the arguments. . . . Sandgren . . . adds an important historical analysis that should challenge anyone interested in the development and dialogue between Judaism and Christianity. This book is perhaps most profitable as a resource for further research. However, it also asks important questions.
Sandgren has done an admirable job in providing a large-scale and broadly middle-of-the-road overview of the history of Jews, Judaism, and the early church. . . . The intended audience is not the specialist, but the person who needs an introduction into any of the periods discussed.
—Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Sandgren shows a remarkable knowledge of the grand sweep of western history (with occasional reference to its cultural landmarks) as well as the details of both Jewish and Christian history. He is even-handed and nonpolemical in his presentation. . . . One must be impressed with the diligence and erudition required in producing this book. It will be referred to often in discussions of the relations of Jews and Christians in the formative period for both modern religions.
Leo Duprée Sandgren is an adjunct assistant professor of Judaism, Christian origins, and historical fiction at the University of Florida. He has lived in Israel, Africa, and Europe, and he is the author of The Shadow of God: Stories from Early Judaism.