Anglican Biblical scholar
Alfred Edersheim (March 7, 1825 – March 16, 1889) was a Jewish convert to Christianity and a Biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883).
Edersheim was a scholar and writer on the traditions of the Jewish faith and Life of Christ He was born March 7th, 1825 in the city of Vienna, Austria. His parents Marcus and Stephanie Beifuss were of the Jewish faith. In Vienna he studied in the gymnasium and University of Austria.
Around 1845 he moved to Pesth, Hungary where he met John Duncan and other Presbyterian ministers, who were chaplains to Scottish workmen building a bridge over the Danube River. Under their influence he became a Christian and came to Scotland with Dr. Duncan. In 1843 he entered New College until 1844. In 1846 he entered the Presbyterian ministry and thereafter preached for a year as a missionary to the Jews and Germans at Jassy in Rumania. He came to Old Aberdeen Church in 1848 and remained for twelve years. Here he translated several German theological books into English and wrote his History of the Jewish Nation from the Fall of Jerusalem to the reign of Constantine the Great."
Reverend Alfred Edersheim was the second minister of Free Church known then as Old Machar Free Church. After twelve years at Free Church, Alfred's health started failing, he resigned and moved to Torquay in the county of Devon, England. In 1861, he gathered a congregation and in 1862 they built St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Torwood Gardens, Torquay. Because of deteriorating health problems he had to resign from St. Andrews and moved to Bournemouth a spa on the south coast. In 1875 he became an Episcopalian and ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England. For a year he was the (unsalaried) curate of the Abbey Church, Christ Church, Hants, near Bournemouth. In 1876 he became vicar of Loders, Dorsetshire; resigning in 1883, moving to Oxford, where he was select preacher to the University from 1884-86.
Because of his health condition he eventually moved to Menton, France where he passed away March 16th, 1889.
His publications as author, translator, editor, and contributor to dictionaries and serial works are very numerous. Perhaps the best-known are:
- The History of the Jewish Nation from AD 70-312 (1857)
- The Jubilee Rhythm of St. Bernard, and other Hymns (1866)
- The Golden Diary of Heart-Converse with Jesus in the Psalms (1874)
- The Temple: its Ministry and Services as they were in the Time of Jesus Christ (1874)
- Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the days of Christ (1876)
- The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883; 2 vols)
- Prophecy and History in relation to the Messiah, (Warburtonian Lectures, 1880-84)
- The History of Israel from the Sacrifice on Carmel to the Death of Jedhu (1885)
Works by Alfred Edersheim
Alfred Edersheim believed that some knowledge of ancient Jewish society was necessary for the general reader of the New Testament to fully understand Jesus' life and works. Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is an informal commentary on the Four Gospels, which highlights the intellectual and religious perspectives of the people who lived during the time of Jesus. By consulting both Rabbinic Law and Talmudic writings, Edersheim paints a vivid picture of the various locations where Jesus would have walked, prayed, and preached. Not only does Edersheim provide useful geographical and political clarifications, he also offers insight into the emotional and psychological experiences of individual Biblical characters as well. From Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, to His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven--Edersheim reports the stages of Jesus' life in exceptional detail, bringing animation and color into a set of stories that may seem distant to readers today.
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In Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Alfred Edersheim has done modern readers a favor. The Old and New Testaments are about a time and society very different from today, with different customs and idioms. Consequently, reading the Old and New Testaments may seem like entering a strange world. Edersheim has tried to make that world less strange. Sketches of Jewish Social Life is meant to fill the gap between ancient and modern readers. It does this by providing the common knowledge of that day for today's readers. In his book, Edersheim provides insight into the basics of Jewish society, customs, political powers, etc. But he doesn't just give readers the relevant information; on occasion, he also applies it to particular biblical passages and events. There are more serious, technical texts of this type, which provide more in depth and modern information about biblical customs. But Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life provides valuable information that will not overwhelm readers with data. Further, Edersheim writes in an easy prose anyone can follow. Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life is thus ideal for anyone wanting a richer understanding of the Old and New Testaments.
Alfred Edersheim has done much work to provide a context in which readers can understand the Old and New Testaments. This work is no exception. Temple--Its Ministry and Services provides a historical examination of the first century Temple at Jerusalem. Edersheim provides beautiful and lush descriptions of the Temple. These descriptions help convey a sense of holiness and reverence that the Temple must have commanded. In the Preface, Edersheim notes that not everyone will find all the details of Temple interesting. Fortunately, the bulk of the text is arranged in short sections, each containing a paragraph or two. For topics readers are uninterested in, they can easily skip to the next short section. This feature also makes the work a useful reference tool. Throughout Temple, Edersheim takes his points and relates them to New Testament events and themes. Although the writing is somewhat dated, Temple--Its Ministry and Services provides a fascinating and enriching look at the Temple.
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