Jewish Literature in New Testament Times
What is the Midrash in Judaism?
the (1) Halakah ("law" or "tradition"), an interpretation of the laws of the
Scriptures and (2) Haggadah ("narration"), the non-legal, or homiletical, part
of the Talmud are called the Midrash, a word derived from the Hebrew verb ‘darash’
meaning "to search out,"
or "to conduct research."
is that of ascertaining a thought or truth not seen on the surface-therefore a
study, commentary, or homiletical exposition. The research into the meaning of
the law, oral and written, was thus made a part of the Talmud. It was the
earliest method used for teaching the oral law by Jewish teachers going back to
about 400 B.C. The Midrash was a group of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew
Scriptures with a verse by verse interpretation written between A.D. 400 and
These commentaries are a collection of public sermons, stories, legal
discussions, and meditations on the books of the Bible used during the festivals
for public worship in the synagogues. The Midrash method was employed by Ezra
and his associates when Ezra read the written Law to the Jews who had returned
to Jerusalem from exile (Neh. 8:1-8). This method of teaching was adopted by the
Hebrew scribes and was the dominant teaching method of the rabbis until ca. 270
B.C. Midrashim (plural of Midrash) were written in Israel and Babylon by the
rabbis. Some Midrashim are contained in the Babylonian Talmud; others are part
of independent collections of commentaries.
Distinction is made between Midrash halakah, dealing with the legal portions
of Scripture, and Midrash haggada, dealing with biblical lore. Midrashic
exposition of both kinds appears throughout the Talmud. Individual midrashic
commentaries were composed by rabbis after the 2nd cent. A.D. up to the Middle
Ages, and they were mostly of an haggadic nature, following the order of the
scriptural text. Important among them are the Midrash Rabbah, a collection of
commentaries on the Torah and the Five Scrolls (the Song of Songs, Esther, Ruth,
Lamentations, Ecclesiastes), and the Pesikta Midrashim, concerning the
festivals. This body of rabbinic literature contains the earliest speculative
thought in the Jewish tradition.
The Midrash Halakah
John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law.."
Rabbinical Literature and Second Temple Judaism
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
Brief Historical Background
The Jews and Torah
The Holy Scriptures
The Apocryphal Literature
The Oral Law
The Tractates of the Mishnah
The Palestinian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud
The Purpose and Heart of the Law
- A Heart Message
Rabbinical Writings Chart
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 Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Great Synagogue
Preparation for Christ