Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Mishnah


What is the Mishnah in Judaism?

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe Talmud comprises two elements, the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the oral law as it was known up to the end of the second century A.D. The Gemara is the interpretation of the oral law which the scholars of Babylon and of Jerusalem produced between the beginning of the third century A.D. and the end of the fifth century.

The Mishnah was an early form of the Jewish oral law or tradition. It was gradually compiled into written form between the 2nd century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. This oral law became known as the "fence" or "hedge" (Hebrew, gdr) around the written law. The Jews developed this complex system of oral laws as a safeguard to make certain the strict observance to the written law and thus to prevent future punishment and exile at the hands of their enemies for failure to keep God's commandments. The Pharisees were the great observers of the oral tradition.

The Mishnah, in Judaism, was a codified collection of Oral Lawólegal interpretations of portions of the Biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and other legal material. Together with the Gemara, or Amoraic commentary on the Mishnah, it comprises the Talmud. Next to the Scriptures the Mishna is the basic textbook of Jewish life and thought, and is traditionally considered to be an integral part of the Torah revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. The sifting and recording of the body of oral interpretations of Biblical law was the work of the Tannaim, the final compilation being made during the rule of Judah ha-Nasi. The Mishnah is divided into six Orders:

The Tractates of the Mishnah

The Pharisaic rabbis spent much time making oral comments on the Law. Those made in the first two centuries AD were compiled by Judah Hanasi about AD 200 to form the important collection known as the Mishnah. These rabbis were known as the 'Tannaim' (Teachers) and were chiefly concerned with decisions about regulations. A less important collection of their comments is known as the 'Tosefta' (enlargement).

The later expositions on the Mishnah by the 'Amoraim' (Expositors ) of Palestine and of Babylonia were known collectively as the Gemara (Completion). The combined text of the Mishnah and the related Gemara is known as the Talmud. These Pharisaic traditions form the basis of orthodox Judaism today.

Sermons commenting on the scriptures, known as 'Midrashim' were also compiled. The earlier Tannaitic Midrashim were mainly concerned with regulations They included commentaries on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The later Amoraic Midrashim include much folklore and legendary materials. The greatest collection, the 'Midrash Rabbah' was not compiled until the sixth or seventh century AD. It includes commentaries on both the five books of the Law (the Pentateuch) and the five 'scrolls' of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.


Jewish Literature

Esther Scroll

John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law.."

Rabbinical Literature and Second Temple Judaism

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe Rabbinic Writings, The Mishnah, and the Talmud. During the first century A.D. the Pharisaic rabbis created many commentaries on the Torah. When Jesus began his ministry He attacked the Pharisees for putting their traditions above the word of God. All the writings and commentaries of the first two centuries A.D. were compiled and organized into a collection by a man named Judah Hanasi around 200 A.D. forming a collection called the Mishnah. The Pharisaic rabbis were known as the "Tannaim" which in Hebrew is translated teachers, and these men were the teachers who regulated the law. There was another collection of their commentary which was much smaller, it was known as the Tosefta which in Hebrew means "enlargement". The later commentaries on the Mishnah were made by "expositors".

Brief Historical Background

The Jews and Torah
The Holy Scriptures
The Apocrypha
The Apocryphal Literature
The Oral Law
The Mishnah
The Gemara
The Halakah
The Haggadah
The Midrash
The Zugoth
The Tannaim
The Amoraim
The Tosefta
The Baraitha
The Talmud
The Tractates of the Mishnah
The Palestinian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud

The Purpose and Heart of the Law - A Heart Message
Rabbinical Writings Chart

Historical Timeline

The Persian Period 430-332 B.C.
The Greek Period 331-167 B.C.
The Period of Independence 167-63 B.C.
The Roman Period 63 B.C. to the time of Christ
The Old Testament Canon
The Apocrypha
Other Writings
The Septuagint
The Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Targums
The Talmud
The Great Synagogue
The Sanhedrin
The Dispersion
Preparation for Christ




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