Fracturing the Faith … Vol 20

Judaism part 2

The Mishnah, from the verb shanah שנה‎, or “to study and review”, also “secondary”, is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah”. Interestingly enough, the same meaning is suggested by the term Deuterosis (“doubling” or “repetition” in Ancient Greek) used in Roman law and Patristic literature.

The Mishnah was redacted by Judah the Prince at the beginning of the third century CE in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period (536 BCE – 70 CE) would be forgotten. Could it have happened at a more dynamic time in history? Doubtful. The term “Mishnah” originally referred to a method of teaching by presenting topics in a systematic order, as contrasted with Midrash, which meant teaching by following the order of the Bible.

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This systematic approach to a hierarchy of religious leadership and the promotion of man-made traditions over the direct instructions of YHWH mirrored the actions of the Romans to the exact.

The Gemara is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah. The Jerusalem Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi) was compiled by scholars of the Land of Israel, primarily of the academies of Tiberias and Caesarea, which was published between about 350–400 CE. The Talmud Bavli was published about 500 CE by scholars of Babylonia, primarily of the academies of Sura, Pumbedita, and Mata Mehasia.

The Gemara and the Mishnah together make up the Talmud. In a narrow sense, the word Gemara refers to the mastery and transmission of existing tradition, as opposed to sevara, which means the deriving of new results by logic. Both activities are represented in the “Gemara” as a literary work.

In the Talmud, a sugya, or building block of the faith, is presented as a series of responsive hypotheses and questions, with the Talmudic text as a record of each step in the process of reasoning and derivation. The Gemara thus takes the form of a dialectical exchange. In contrast, the Mishnah states concluded legal opinions and often the differences in opinion between the Tannaim. There is little dialogue. The disputants here are termed the makshan (questioner, “one who raises a difficulty”) and tartzan (answerer, “one who puts straight”).

The gemara records the semantic disagreements between Tannaim and Amoraim. Some of these debates were actually conducted by the Amoraim, though many of them are hypothetically reconstructed by the Talmud’s redactors.

Within Judaism there are a variety of movements, including a Humanistic Judaism may be nontheistic, or one characterized by the absence of espoused belief in a God or gods. Is anyone besides me scratching their head on that one!

The power of secular paganism to usurp the power and authority of YHWH did not stop with the Roman Empire. The influences of the Greek on the followers of Judaism was of equal portions as the followers of the Roman church. Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism in the ancient world that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture. The main religious issue dividing Hellenized Jews from traditional Jews was the application of biblical laws in a Hellenistic (or Roman or other non-Jewish) empire. Like Antinomianism, the Hellenization of Judaism began to segment the Word of God to the mindset of the era. Hellenistic Judaism emphasized monotheistic doctrine (heis theos), and represented reason (logos) and wisdom (sophia) as emanations from God.

The Hellenic influence pervaded everything, and even in the very strongholds of Judaism it modified the organization of the state, the laws, and public affairs, art, science, and industry, affecting even the ordinary things of life and the common associations of the people.

Acts 6:1 “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” These are the Hellenistic Jews. The reasons for the decline of Hellenistic Judaism are obscure and may have been marginalized by, absorbed into, or became a form of Early Christianity.

Both Early Christianity and Early Rabbinical Judaism were far less ‘orthodox’ and less theologically homogeneous than they are today; and both were significantly influenced by Hellenistic religion and borrowed allegories and concepts from Classical Hellenistic philosophy and the works of Greek-speaking Jewish authors of the end of the Second Temple period before the two schools of thought eventually affirmed their respective ‘norms’ and doctrines, notably by diverging increasingly on key issues such as the status of ‘purity laws’, the validity of Judeo-Christian messianic beliefs, and, more importantly, the use of Koiné Greek and Latin as liturgical languages replacing Biblical Hebrew.

 

  1. “Jewish Denominations”. Religion Facts.
  2. Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society, 1985, ISBN 0-8276-0252-9
  3. Daniel Boyarin. “Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism” [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999

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