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This updated second edition of the well-received 1997 reference work is beautifully illustrated with maps, tables, informative sidebars, and photographs and will appeal to many readers on that basis alone. Following a thorough introduction with its own bibliographical and biographical essay, various contributing biblical scholars present the text in three parts: "The World of the Hebrew Bible"; "Jewish Responses to Greek and Roman Cultures, 322 B.C.E. to 200 C.E."; and "The Formation of Christian Communities." Each part is followed by a lengthy bibliographical essay that interested readers will find valuable. Stressing the evidence not only of the biblical text itself but also of archaeology, history, language, literary studies, and culture, this is an eminently scholarly work-but it never gets beyond the comprehension level of the nonspecialist reader. It will not please biblical inerrantists and has nothing to say that specifically supports the doctrine of one or another church. However, many other readers, Christian or not, will find it very informative, up-to-date, and useful. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.
—James F. DeRoche