Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Midrash


What is the Midrash in Judaism?

Jerusalem Temple CoinTogether, 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." The inference 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 A.D. 1200.

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.

Also see The Midrash Halakah


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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