Biblical People, Places and Time-Part 8

Rabbinic Judaism becomes “halachic” now. Again, halachah is “how to walk in the commandments, how to live.” In the first century, the “Judaisms” at that time were more “aggadic” in their approach, which means there were stories and parables used to convey spiritual concepts found in the Torah and halachah. But by the middle of the second century AD, Rabbinic Judaism is more halachic because it was used as an insulation against paganism, in other words, “fences” needed to be constructed around the commandments so that people would not come near to breaking them, especially as they lived in a non-Jewish world full of paganism. Jewish believers have been “kicked out” of the Jewish community and as far back as 90 AD they have been “singled out” in the synagogues because of the Birkat ha Minim and the “rasha” in the story of the four sons as told in the Passover Haggadah. In 132 AD, they are totally out of the Jewish community, but isolated from the dominant Gentile Christian community. The Gentile Christian community is underground because of the Romans, but is non-Jewish in practice and customs. They were being persecuted because they were not a part of the protected religion of Judaism in the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar had decreed that the Jews could be allowed to practice their religion in the Roman Empire because it predated Rome. Other religions could not do this and they had to forsake their beliefs and welcome the religion and gods of Rome. But not Judaism. That is why you see the Temple and the synagogues functioning in the Gospels and Epistles. When Gentile Christianity began to get stronger and had a non-Jewish membership, they broke from Judaism with new practices and customs. This was illegal in Rome and they were persecuted because now they were considered an illegal religion, and not protected. Many church fathers would write to the emperors of Rome stating that these “Christians” should not be persecuted because they should fall under the protection of the decrees of Julius Caesar because they were simply the “new Israel” and that God had rejected the Jews. While this was going on, the Roman Empire was on the decline. The emphasis of the empire was on games and the people were less knowledgeable of what was going on and had little understanding. They became wealthier and wealthier and this caused many internal problems. During this period of the mid-second century, a number of pseudo-pigraphic writings (these were books by people who would use biblical character names to add credence to their writings) came out that were very anti-Semitic. One of the most notable examples is the Epistle of Barnabas. Gentile Christianity has three enemies. Rabbinic Judaism, Jewish believers in Yeshua and paganism. Gentile Christian groups hunted down Jews and Jewish believers and killed them. Election of leadership and doctrine is also emerging in Gentile Christianity and this is still done today. For more on this subject, in more detail, see our study “Replacement Theology” on this site). The so-called “Church Fathers” will emerge during the first, second and third century AD. Rabbinic Judaism will contest everything this “new kid on the block” is saying, but paganism is still the “big bully” and Rome is full of it, as were other nations in the empire. Gentile Christianity is sweeping through the empire because you get a “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow and didn’t have to do anything. No commandments, but just “love.” They were anti-Semitic and everyone could agree with that, so it was a natural fit. The pagan world had become so ridiculous with so many gods that it was empty of meaning, and the people were hungry for something different. While this was going on, Yehudah Ha Nasi was compiling the last edition of the Mishnah. The Tannaim were sages from Hillel to the compilation and final redaction of the Mishanh around 200 AD. Tanna comes from the word “teni” which means to hand down orally, study and teach. A “tanna” usually designates a teacher either mentioned in the Mishanh or mishnaic times, and the term is used to distinguish them from later teachers (The Amoraim and Gaonim). Those before Hillel are called “zugot” which means “pairs.” Hillel and Shammai are considered zugot, and founders of modern Rabbinic Judaism. The Tannaim are divided into five generations of 40 years each and between two major events, the destruction in 70 AD and the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 AD. From Yochanon Ben Zakkai to his students, to their students, Rabbinic Judaism was very successful in restructuring until the Bar Kochba revolt. Students of Rabbi Akiva regroup, move the centers of learning to Galilee. Rabbi Meir emerges as the most prominent teacher, along with his wife Beruria, who was also a sage and a leading scholar. It is with her downfall that Rabbinic Judaism changes its view about women in synagogue leadership and teaching. This move would have a direct influence on Gentile Christianity and how they would view women in ministry. Paul’s words in the Epistles will be re-interpreted to reflect a disapproval of women in ministry, but that was not what Paul was saying. As we have seen, up to Beruria, women were seen as elders, sages, judges, prophets and in all types of synagogue leadership and ministry. Rabbi Meir’s work, originally Hillel’s, was continued by Yehuda Ha Nasi and the Mishnah was codified. Yehuda dies in 220 AD, closing the period of the Tannaim. Military oppression and spiritual repression were the main stimulus in Israel, and a general depression abounded through the people due to politics and the economy because the country is wasted and the people have been scattered. The population would shift from Judean centers to Galilee from 135 AD onward. There was a vacuum of authority, splinter groups and factions. Rabbi’s had their own idea of what to do. Ben Zakkai and Shimon Ben Gamaliel II had consolidated authority into a new Sanhedrin, as we have discussed previously. This was accepted by the people but they had to gain Roman approval. Halachah was weaved together from all the various traditions, and there were two types. Legal Halachah came from the Mishnah with editorial guidelines of the halachah. In turn, the Mishnah was the basis for the Gemora, a commentary on the Mishnah, which was the basis for later books in Rabbinic Judaism. The second type was called Midrashic Halachah, which contained stories and parables that contained halachah. Within 20 years of the completion of the Mishnah (220 AD), the semi-Tannaim put together what is called the Tosefta, which included halachah not included in the Mishnah. The Tosefta includes how to have a Passover on a day other than Passover, for example. Certain things were excluded due to the massive volume of the Mishnah and they had to prioritize what was to go in. Two editors of note on the Tosefta was Rabbi Chiyya and Rabbi Oshiah.
The Talmud, meaning “learning, study” contains the Mishnah and the Gemora, plus an explanation of teachings and a whole body of learning from the biblical text. This body of teaching comprises the commentaries and discussions of the Amoraim on the Mishanh comprised by Yehuda Ha Nasi. The Amoraim (200 to 600 AD) are “Talmudic” scholars who concluded tradition could not invalidate the Torah. They tried to straighten out what the Tannaim messed up, forming the Gemora which is a commentary on the Mishanh. Much of the halachot was left out of what was compiled in the Talmud and this was called the Baraita meaning “excluded” from the Mishnah. Another book came out called the Seder Olam Rabbah during the Tannaic period, and this book became the basis for Jewish chronologies. It is mentioned in the Talmud as being written by Yosi Ben Halafta and an Amora. It was in three parts with ten chapters. The current Jewish calendar today has the years according to this book. Part 1 has the dates of major events from creation to the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua. Part 2 has from the crossing to the murder of Zechariah the priest. Part 3 covers the time from this murder to the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus. This book covers the Persian period (Zerubbabel rebuilding the Temple to the conquest of Persia by Alexander), compressed into 34 years because they did not calculate the years of Persian kings not mentioned in Scripture, which means there were missing years not in the current Jewish year. It also covers the conquest of Persia by Alexander to the Bar Kochba revolt. This book used a Hellenistic work from the third century BC by Demetrius. The work has gone through many hands and there are many errors in the calculations. One needs to keep this in mind before anyone gets too dogmatic about the accuracy of the years in a Jewish calendar. There are anywhere from 210 to 250 missing years at least that are not calculated into the current year. In Part 9, we will pick up here and move into talking about educational differences between Jewish and non-Jewish communities and how this was one of the reasons why Gentile Christianity went into what was called the “Dark Ages.”

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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