Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Oral Law

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What was the Oral Law in Judaism?

Jerusalem Temple CoinWith the overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Judaism ceased to be an independent political state and became exclusively a religious community. With the ending of the temple sacrifices came the decline of the priesthood and the rise of the rabbinate. The study of the law took the place of offerings, and the teacher replaced the priest. As the teachers sought to interpret the law, they codified the traditions which had grown up around it and ultimately reduced them to writing. The Pharisees looked upon these traditions as contemporary with the written law and equally as binding, while the Sadducees renounced them entirely.

Undoubtedly there were ethical standards observed among the Hebrew people prior to the giving of the law at Sinai. Certain attitudes and observances were connected with the lives of Noah and of Abraham as recorded in Genesis, and there could hardly have been the keeping of unity during the bondage in Egypt had there not been some stable form of morals and of worship to hold the people together. Whether these traditions were actually transmitted through the many stages of Israel's history to the first and second centuries A.D. is uncertain. One thing is certain - the mass of tradition contained in the Talmud includes much that is older than the writing of the book itself. The existence of the oral law in New Testament times is attested by the references which Christ made to "the tradition of the elders" (Mark 7:3).

The collection of these traditions with the comments upon them by early rabbis constitute the Talmud. The name is derived from the verb "lammid" which means "to teach."

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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".

Introduction
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
Glossary
Timeline

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
Synagogues
The Dispersion
Pharisees
Sadducees
Scribes
Preparation for Christ

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