Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How did Rabbinic Judaism come into being?


Just how did Rabbinic Judaism, the current dominate for of Judaism, come into being? Is it the only form of Judaism today?

Judaism of the first century was expressed in many flavors, including that of the Tzadakim (centered on the Temple service), Pharisaic (centered around Halacha), Zealots (a Zionist movement wanting freedom from Rome), Messianic (believers that Yeshua of Nazareth is Messiah, and Essenes (an almost monastic sect, from whom we get the Dead Sea Scrolls). These and other sects lived and competed in Jewish culture during the 1st century until the destruction of the temple, and subsequent diaspora.

Three groups, the Tzadakim, Zealots & Essenes, ceased to be a force in Judaism after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. This left 2 primary groups both of which succeeded in establishing themselves outside of Jerusalem, and subsequently being spared from destruction by the Romans. The Messianics, thorough a miracle of G-d (in my estimation), were able to escape Jerusalem (which later brought about accusations of being traitors by some Jewish authorities) when the Romans surrounding the city split their lines (recorded in Josephus). The Messianic’s heeding their Messiah’s words, fled the city. The Pharisee had significant numbers outside Jerusalem, and thus were able to continue on.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, the 2 groups grew increasingly apart, until, in 90 CE, at Yavneh, the Pharisee’s added the 19th benediction to the Amidah, forcing Messianics to curse themselves if they wished to stay in the Synagogue. The split continued, and was made greater in 132-135 CE in the 2nd revolt, where Rabbi Akiva names Simon bar Koshba to be Messiah. This resulted in a greater polarization. Messianics would, over the next 200 years become overshadowed as Gentiles came to dominate the movement.

Pharisee’s succeeded in evolving Judaism from a Temple based movement to a Synagogue based movement. Sacrifices were replaced with Prayer, Charity & Repentance. As the Diaspora grew, this system gained dominance. The Talmud, with the Oral Law and Rabbinic rulings (Halacha) were compiled and governance was established. The rulings of the Rabbi’s became supreme, to the point that Oral Torah and Rabbinic writings were treated on the level of Torah.

Great Sage’s like Rashi, RamBam, RamBan, etc. compiled volumes that added to the Rabbinic interpretation and strengthened what became Modern Judaism.

Is Rabbinic Judaism the only form today? Most certainly not, even with non-Messianic Judaism, there are groups like the Karaite who reject Oral Torah & the Talmud. The largest group of Jew’s today are not Orthodox, but secular, many atheist, who do not even believe in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. One of the fastest growing forms of Judaism is Messianic, Those who believe Yeshua is the Messiah. Currently Messianic Jews worldwide number about 500,000 or 2-3% of the total Jewish World population.

It is important to note that the Orthodox do not accept Messianic Jews as Jews. They also reject other expressions of faith such as the Karaites, and even Conservative and Reformed Jewish conversions are not recognized in Israel.


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