The Bible was not written in a vacuum. This basic principle for interpreting the Scriptures often seems to be forgotten, inevitably leading to misinterpretation and error. Nevertheless, a responsible interpreter knows that the Bible was not just “dropped from the heavens,” but rather came through a process interacting with culture and context over a long period of time. For instance, I’ve often said that a reader cannot fully appreciate the context of the New Testament without familiarity with the Intertestamental Literature that precedes it. And understanding Intertestamental Literature depends on familiarity with the biblical literature that came before it. There is a dynamic interaction between the Bible and the literature of the culture in which it was produced.
The three-volume Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, edited by Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel, and Lawrence H. Schiffman, offers the opportunity to explore the “other” literature available during the Second Temple Period (503 BCE to 70 CE). According to the publisher, these works include “apocalyptic visions and prophecies, folktales and legends, collections of wise sayings, laws and rules of conduct, commentaries on Scripture, ancient prayers, and much, much more.” Outside the Bible includes selections from the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, the biblical Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus and many other lesser-known works.
Rather than arrange this collection of extrabiblical by type or genre, the editors
arranged the selections in a way that highlights their closeness to the Hebrew Bible, starting with actual translations, then moving to various types of biblical commentary and rewritten biblical narratives, and proceeding from these to laws, liturgies, and rules for living drawn from the language and themes of the Hebrew Bible [from the introduction].
The first section includes a number of brand new essays on the types of literature included in Outside the Bible. Here you will find an overview of the Septuagint by Emmanuel Tov and similar treatment of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Lawrence H. Schiffman among other similar surveys of Second Temple literature collections and genres (see the publisher’s website for a complete listing of all contributors to Outside the Bible).
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Upon delving into the selections in Outside the Bible, the reader can expect not only translations of texts, but also comprehensive treatment with introduction, commentary and more:
Each text in Outside the Bible is preceded by a brief introduction that gives a summary of its contents, a history of its composition and transmission, its significance for Jewish (and sometimes Christian) history and biblical interpretation, and a guide to reading that highlights specific issues for understanding the text. A short list of additional readings points the interested reader to more detailed or focused treatments of the text. Both the introduction and the commentary to the text itself are sometimes accompanied by additional notes that provide more references or technical information, or highlight additional matters of interpretation [from the introduction].
Over 3000 pages in print, Outside the Bible—an exclusive to Accordance Bible Software—is a must-have resource for serious students of the Bible and the history and literature of the Second Temple Period. To make this title even more useful for Accordance users, our developers have carefully analyzed every aspect of the text and have tagged content according to the following categories: Titles, Translated Texts, English Content, Scripture, Transliteration, Greek Content, Bibliography, Authors, and Page Numbers. This tagging allows for precise content searches, resulting in fast and accurate research within this title and in interaction with other titles in the Accordance Library.
Outside the Bible will normally sell for $249, but through September 14, Accordance users may obtain this title at the introductory price of $199.
For an in-depth review of Outside the Bible in Accordance, see the review, “Outside the Bible (JPS): 3,000+ Pages in Accordance” by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones at the Words on the Word blog.
Outside the Bible
List Price $300; Regular Price $249