Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Holy Scriptures


What were the Hebrew Scriptures in the Time of Jesus?

Jerusalem Temple CoinThere is absolutely no doubt that the Jewish Scriptures were deeply woven into the fabric of the people of the New Testament. Jesus had quoted often from the Law, from the Psalms, and from the Prophets (Luke 24:44), the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible. He continually used them in His arguments and to substantiate His mission and identity.

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

What did the Lord Jesus think about the Scriptures? The Word guided His every step, it was His food, and His strength. It was the weapon by which He could overcome every enemy. From beginning to end His life was the fulfillment of what had been written of Him in the "volume of the Book." Jesus constantly appealed to the Word. When He was tempted in the wilderness, He conquered Satan by saying, "It is written." When He was confronted by the Pharisees He would say, "What sayeth the Scripture?" "Have ye not read?" "Is it not written?" When His disciples questioned Him about His sufferings, He replied, "How otherwise can the Scriptures be fulfilled?" Even in His death, He quoted Scripture.

Throughout the Book of Acts and the Epistles the apostolic writers reveal their familiarity with the Old Testament by frequently quoting from the Hebrew text or the Greek Septuagint. Paul went so far as to say that the Scriptures were inspired or more literally "God breathed":

2 Tim 3:16-17 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Paul also declared to Timothy that the Scriptures of the Old Testament were able to give salvation through Jesus:

2 Tim 3:15 " the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

In fact the hope of the early church was so secure in the Hebrew Scriptures that a new Jewish version of the Old Testament in Greek was made, because the Septuagint had become to all intents and purposes a Christian book. It wasn't long before some Jewish scribes created at least one new translation in the early centuries to furnish a more literal rendering of the Hebrew text that would be less acceptable to Christian uses.

Also see The Text of the Old Testament


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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