The Concept of Exile in Late Second Temple Judaism: A Review of Recent Scholarship

Bibliographic information:

Piotrowski, Nicholas. “The Concept of Exile in Late Second Temple Judaism: A Review of Recent Scholarship.” Currents in Biblical Research 5.2 (2017): 214‒47


Before Wright published the first two volumes of his Christian Origins and the Question of God series (1992; 1996) the discussion concerning late Second Temple Jewish concepts of exile was a quiet one. Since then, however, more and more scholars have begun to weigh in. Champions of the theory contend that Second Temple texts convey a matrix of concerns that together demonstrate a Jewish consciousness of being in a state of ongoing exile, notwithstanding the residency in the land of a significant population and a functioning temple. Dissenters argue that these scholars are illegitimately privileging one motif within a highly complex ancient religion, and assigning it a metanarrative role it never truly had. Others contend that ‘ongoing’ exile is too narrow of a description to account for the diversity of attitudes across several sects. Only recently, though, have major works been produced that thoroughly examine the primary texts in question. In the process, a growing chorus of voices is supporting, with various levels of enthusiasm, the thesis that a significant number of late Second Temple Jewish groups indeed understood themselves to be languishing in some form of exile: ongoing exile since the sixth century bce, in the throes of recurring cycles of exile, or a set of historic realities characterized with exilic metaphors.


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