Grabbe offers an accessible and reliable account of the sources, history and interpretation of the age that gave form to Judaism and from which Christianity emerged. The subjects covered are: the Persian period; the Jews and Hellenization; Alexander, the Diadochi and the Ptolemies; Seleucid rule, the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean priest-kings; the Roman conquest and Herod the Great; the changing fortunes of Judaea and the war with Rome; religious pluralism from the Maccabees to Yavneh; the last period ending with Bar Kokhba, and a concluding survey of the Jewish 'theocracy'. In each historical segment there is an assessment of the primary extant sources; a survey of the major interpretative issues; a synthesis of the history; and a bibliography of modern works. Grabbes' account of Judaism in the beginning of Christianity is an ideal presentation for anyone who wants to learn by doing, because he provides a reliable and accurate account of the sources, the problems, and the range of scholarly opinions. The presentation then leaves open to the reader the opportunity to think things through in a fresh and independent way. To call the book the best textbook on its subject limits the appeal, since anyone, student or otherwise, who wants to participate in the life of learning on the formative age of Western civilization will appreciate what Grabbe has made possible: direct access to the state of the question, sources and scholarship alike.