Book Note: Cohen's From the Macabees to the Mishnah (3rd ed.)

Shaye J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 3rd ed. (1987; Louisville: WJKP, 2014). (

Shaye J.D. Cohen has once again updated his popular introduction to early Judaism (1st = 1987; 2nd = 2005). This 3rd edition contains some cosmetic changes ("I have rewritten sentences and paragraphs here and there..."), and some additional information ("I have added some references in footnotes."), but the most important change is an additional chapter. Cohen's eighth chapter addresses the so-called "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism ("Preface to the Third Edition", xi). Originally the book was to be written as a sort of background to early Christianity, but Cohen has written an introduction to early Judaism that is aware of incipient Christianity, but not consumed by it. 

There are eight chapters: Chapter 1, "Ancient Judaism: Chronology and Definitions"; Chapter 2, "Jews and Gentiles"; Chapter 3, "The Jewish 'Religion': Practices and Beliefs"; Chapter 4, "The Community and Its Institutions"; Chapter 5, "Sectarian and Normative"; Chapter 6, "Canonization and Its Implications"; Chapter 7, "The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism"; and Chapter 8, "Ways That Parted: Jews, Christians, Jewish Christians (ca. 100-150)". Most of these chapter titles are self-explanatory as regards their content. The first chapter is dedicated to the history of the Jews. The second is dedicated to questions related to Jewish identity and what separates Jews from the nations. The third chapter focuses upon the liturgical and halachic aspects of early Judaism, especially the Temple in Jerusalem and the rituals that occurred there, but also ethics, questions about "legalism", and the place of women in society. Cohen argues that Judaism is more about action/behavior than doctrine/dogma, but he does discuss a few doctrines: "Kingship of God"; "Reward and Punishment"; and "Redemption".

The fourth chapter addresses the Temple, the Sanhedrin, life in the Diaspora, the synagogue, and sects, guilds, and schools. The fifth chapter begins where the fourth ends by working to define a "sect" and the roles of sects in early Judaism, most specifically the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, "Fourth Philosophy", Sicarii, Zealots, Christians, Samaritans, and the Therapeutae. 

The sixth chapter wrestles with the process of canonizing scripture and the implications of doing so (this chapter was quite enlightening as regards Cohen's observations regarding many cultures canonizing literature from their perceived "golden age"). The seventh chapter outlines the rise of rabbinic Judaism and the development of literature like the Mishnah. The eighth chapter, a new one, is where Cohen discusses the parting of ways, arguing, in gist, that the true parting was between Jewish Christians and other Jews since there was never a time of "togetherness" between Gentile Christians and Jews.

In this 3rd edition the Preface contains Cohen's rebuke of the PC (USA) for its divestment in American companies who do business with Israel. WJKP is independent of the PC (USA), though associated with it, but it is the independence that permitted Cohen to continue working with WJKP in good conscience. This makes the addition of the eighth chapter on the "parting of the ways" quite interesting being that the chapter is written in the shadow of a present conflict between one branch of Protestantism and many Jews who are loyal to Israel. You can read Cohen's thoughts on the PC (USA) in an article he wrote for the Marginalia Review of Books titled  "The Presbyterians and I".