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Rabbinic Judaism

The central conception that distinguishes Rabbinic Judaism from all other forms of Judaism is the belief that Moses received a dual revelation, a written Torah and an oral Torah. Those who first revived this ancient idea did so in opposition to the heirs of the Aaronic priestly tradition who were committed solely to the perpetuation of written law and the traditional cult. Yet by the end of its formative period (c. 600 CE) Rabbinic Judaism consisted of a synthesis of the messianic and priestly traditions. The development of the major strains that were later reconciled took place over the first two centuries of the common era. On the one hand, there was the small group who developed the Mishnah, "the systematic expression of the priestly viewpoint," (Neusner, Rabbinic 72). On the other, were the successors of the Pharisees who perpetuated the tradition of the dual Torah and the rabbinical system of leadership, teaching, and the interpretation of Torah. The rabbis' reconciliation of the major strains in Judaism took place only after centuries in which major upheavals in Jewish life were instrumental in the formulation of the positions of both groups.

The revival of the oral tradition was brought about by the Pharisees who emerged to prominence at the time of the Hasmonean Revolt (166-142 BCE). During the first century the Pharisees were involved in a struggle for dominance with the Sadducees, who reasserted the belief that "God had revealed a single, immutable written law" (Rivkin 66). The Pharisees' consolidation of their influence was the direct result of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. It was at this time that a transition from Pharisaic to Rabbinic Judaism began. Later, following the disastrous Bar Kokhba revolt, the persecutions of Hadrian and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem (137-138 CE), added force to early rabbinism as its tenets provided a means of organizing the dispersed community.


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Rabbinic Judaism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:33, February 20, 2019, from