The Rise of Rabbinic Judaism

Written on September 8, 2022 – 12:42 pm | by dave |

A critical part of understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls is to understand the Rabbinic movement that rose to prominence after the community in Qumran was abandoned.

The Disappearance of Other Groups

  • Sadducees: Without a temple, there was no way to worship God in the Sadducee system.
  • Essenes: Small groups like these often fade away or die out, especially if there is an apocalyptic component (such as the Roman invasion). This is likely what happened to the Essenes.
  • Zealots: fade away after 73 CE when their stronghold, Masada, falls to Romans.

Christianity Rises

  • The Christian community continues to develop but it becomes less and less of a Jewish phenomenon.
  • The growing number of Christians in the world come from the formerly polytheistic population of the Greco-Roman world and not from the Jewish community.


  • The only group that is able to bridge the pre-70 C.E. (Second Temple) period on the post-70 C.E. (Destruction of the Temple) period are the Pharisees
  • They emerge as the dominant (or the sole) Jewish movement in the area.
  • Pharisees begin to rebuild themselves as the core of Rabbinic Judaism
  • Most of the core of Rabbinic group relocate to Sepphoris (Sepori) instead of Jerusalem

Rabbinic Texts Emerge 1 – The Mishna

  • The Mishna is the earliest codification of Jewish law (halakha) and appears around 200 C.E. and is redacted by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi
  • Six orders of Mishna:
    • Seeds – agricultural laws, sabbath year fallow
    • Festivals – detailed descriptions of holy festivals and their observance
    • Women – Rules about marriage, childbirth, etc.
    • Damages – Levitical/Deuteronomical Laws
    • Holy Things – Discusses things such as what is and is not permitted on the Sabbath.
    • Purities – impurity examples (i.e. menstruation)
  • An important question often asked about the Mishna is: “Does the Mishna innovate new law, or does it simply put into writing the practices that have existed for centuries?”

Rabbinic Texts Emerge 2 – The Tosefta

  • The Tosefta (Supplement) is a companion book to the Mishna
  • Some rules from the Tosefta are not found in the Mishna, and some of the laws in the Mishna are further expounded upon in the Tosefta.

The Talmud-in

  • A series of rabbinic teachings throughout Judea are added to the Talmud of Israel which was completed around 400 C.E.
  • Another Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud when Rabbi ha-Nasi traveled to other schools of Judaism in the Babylonian Empire and created the larger Talmud.

The Rabbis and the Synagogue

  • The role of the synagogue became greatly expanded during the post-Temple period.
  • Centering religion around the Synagogue also standardized many aspects of the Jewish system including the standardization of prayer due to the Berakhot (blessings)
  • This also gave rise to the Systems of Liturgical Reading of the Torah including:
    • Annual reading of the Torah
    • Triennial system – the Torah is read over a three-year period
  • Rabbis transferred many of the ritual used in the Temple to the synagogue such as:
    • Blowing the Shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival
    • Bringing palm branches to the Sukkot festival service
    • Purging/cleansing ritual that used to transpire in the Temple on Yom Kippur becomes part of the liturgy of the synagogue
  • Rabbis also transferred some of the rituals used in the Temple to the home including:
    • Washing of hands before a meal
    • Having a seder on Passover where prayers and biblical passages are read
  • In the early days of post-Temple life, many of the rabbis were limited to their own yeshiva (rabbinic academy)
  • The Torah prohibits any depiction of pagan images, e.g., Helios, zodiac signs so any original synagogue would have contained no images of any entity.
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