English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities -- Baroque & Enlightenment

Study Guide on ancient Jewish history

Our reading on this topic is Matthews and Platt, The Western Humanities (3rd Edition), pp. 133-8, together with the last two paragraphs on p. 140.  Our purpose in taking this up is to acquaint ourselves with certain theological concepts developed by the ancient Jews that play an important role in Saint Augustine's picture of universal history (though often with a changed interpretation and/or an extended application.  This section also introduces you to several episodes in Jewish history that played an important role in Augustine's picture of universal history.  You might want to print off a copy of this Study Guide and use it to take notes on as you work through the reading.  You will achieve a better understanding if you try to put things in your own words.  Your notes will also serve as a convenient source for review as examination time approaches.

Theological concepts developed by the ancient Jews that are integral to Augustine's picture of unviersal history

What is a "covenant"? 

The Ten Commandments


When did Hebrew oral traditions about the people's history turn into Scripture?


What is a "prophet," and what was the role of prophets in Jewish history? 

What is "eschatology"? 

What is "apocalypse"?

What is a "Messiah," and what was the historical situation of the Jews when this idea entered their thinking?


What ideas did the Hebrew Bible, as it eventually developed, lead various thinkers within the ancient Jewish tradition to develop about

Episodes in Jewish history that play an important role in Augustine's picture of universal history

Who was Abraham? 

Who led the Deliverance from the Egyptian Captivity?  What else did he do? 

What was the Ark of the Covenant?  What do the letters YHWH denote? 

What was the Promised Land? 

What did the Israelites do between the time they left Egypt and the time they took possession of the Promised Land?

What figures were important (when?) in the Kingdom of Israel? 


When did the kingdom divide into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom? 

What disaster befell the Northern Kingdom (and when)?


Something to speculate upon:  Do we have today the writings that record the history of the Jewish people as it was understood and taught by the priests of the Northern Kingdom?  Might it make a difference if we did?

Something else to speculate upon:  How do you imagine the Southern Kingdom explained the fate of its northern rival to itself?

What was the "Babylonian Captivity"?  (How and when did it begin and come to an end?  What happened during it?)


Matthews and Platt point to some changes that entered into Jewish society and theology in the wake of this episode.  Get clear on what these are:

social/political changes

theological changes

The Jewish community during the Hellenistic Period

The Jewish community during the Roman Period

Something you might try your hand at (not required):  Suppose you were to organize the history of the Jews under the idea of the role and fate of temples as a focal point for communal identity.  What would belong under the following cateories?








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      This page last updated 24 August 1999.