The Rabbinic Age of Judaism

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The Rabbinic Age of Judaism

By | November 2010
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The banishment and exile of Jews from the ancient Kingdom Judah to Babylon resulted in dramatic changes to Jewish culture and religion. This allowed the circumstances for the development of various sects, each of which claimed exclusive authority to represent "Judaism"; marriage with members of other sects is forbidden. Although priests controlled the rituals of the Temple, the scribes and sages, later called rabbis dominated the study of the Torah. These sages identified with the Prophets and developed and maintained an oral tradition that they believed had originated at Mount Sinai. The Pharisees had its origins in this new system. One of the factors that distinguished the Pharisees from other groups preceding the destruction of the Temple was their belief that all Jews had to observe the purity laws outside the Temple. The major difference, however, was the continued obedience of the Pharisees to the laws and traditions of the Jewish people in the face of assimilation. The Pharisees were considered the experts and accurate expositors of Jewish law. The sages of the Talmud see a direct link between themselves and the Pharisees, and historians generally consider Pharisaic Judaism to be the progenitor of Rabbinic Judaism. All mainstream forms of Judaism today consider themselves heirs of Rabbinic Judaism and, ultimately, the Pharisees. At first the values of the Pharisees developed through their sectarian debates with members of other Jewish groups; then they developed through internal, non-sectarian debates over the law as an adaptation to life without the Temple, and in exile. These shifts mark the transformation of Pharisaic to Rabbinic Judaism. One belief central to the Pharisees was shared by all Jews of the time: monotheism. This is evident in the practice of reciting the Shema. Pharisaic views were non-creedal and non-dogmatic, and heterogeneous. Not one piece of rabbinic text is devoted to theological issues; these texts are concerned primarily...

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