I’ve been tagged again, this time by Pat McCullough to “list the five primary sources that have most affected your scholarship, thoughts about antiquity, and/or understanding of the NT/OT”, excluding the biblical books themselves. I guess they would be as follows.
(1) Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Everything about the ancient pagan “bible” informs the way I read the Judeo-Christian bible, mostly by way of contrast. Ironically, Yahweh loves The Iliad.
(2) Josephus’ Jewish War. Josephus’ best work, and impossible to do without. Here we see how the Jewish masses really felt about Roman rule.
(3) I & II Maccabees. These should have made it into the canon (the Catholics do get a few things right). For historical purposes, they’re as important as Ezra and Nehemiah, and Daniel’s theology demands them. First century Judaism was forged in the fires of the Maccabean revolt.
(4) IV Ezra. This has to go on my list since I have a lot of it memorized. Years ago I was working on a novel in which II Esdras 3-14 played a serious role, and these chapters have had a major impact on the way I view Jewish apocalyptic, alongside I Enoch, Jubilees, and the Testament of Job.
(5) The Greek Magical Papyri. This material brought home to me that ancient religion was about more than prophesying, teaching, and ethical living. It was as much about miracles, magic, and spiritual forces, something agnostics like myself aren’t inclined to take seriously.
(Previous meme here.)