Ancient Jewish Texts

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These diverse explanations for the exclusion of Maccabees reflect the generally uncertain stance among scholars regarding the question of why some texts "made it" into the Jewish canon, while others did not. This uncertainty applies not only to the Apocrypha, but also to the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Pseudepigrapha means "false-writing" in Greek. It refers to a collection of texts whose authorship is purposely (mis)ascribed to characters from the Hebrew Bible. Similar to Apocrypha, some works of the Pseudepigrapha have apocalyptic themes. Notable examples of Pseudepigrapha include the Books of Jubilees and Enoch.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in the 20th century, are the most prominent historical record of Jewish life in the Second Temple period. This collection is comprised of more than 900 documents and fragments of documents that were found in caves in and around Qumran, Israel. Scholars believe the texts--which include biblical texts, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, as well as texts unique to Qumran--belonged to a sectarian community that lived in the Judean desert.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us a greater understanding of when and how different biblical books were canonized. They also offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of a Second Temple sectarian community which considered itself Jewish--though its practices differ considerably from today.

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