Question 1: In the era of the Second Temple, what things or ideas united Jews, and what divided them?
When a person was a Judean or Jew, it meant that they belonged to the same ethnic group in the same territory. However, those remnants of Israel who were scattered across Egypt to Babylon also belonged to the same group because of their religious faith. During the Second Temple, Judaism became a religious book; it was a canonizing process for the beginning of Holy Scriptures (Brenner, 2010 p. 24). One of the things that united the Jews together during this period is good relations that they had developed with nations and states surrounding them. This led to assimilation as the Jews married women who were non-Jewish (Brenner, 2010 p. 21).
The other things that united the Jews were the prophets who were attributed as gifts because they were God’s voice to the people (p.25). However, this behavior was condemned by prophet Malachi who believed that religious fervor and remarrying of foreigners would lead into neglect (Brenner, 2010 p. 24). It means that it was one factor that would end up dividing the Jews and Judah people. Another thing that divided the Jews was having separate ideas. For instance, there were individuals who believed in the Torah which was their binding authority (Brenner, 2010 p. 42). They therefore did not obey the doctrines based on individual resurrection.
Canonization also united the Jews because it laid the legislative and theological foundations (Brenner, 2010 p.27). This enabled the Jews to remove themselves from the cultures that were not religious. It enabled them to maintain a social order that was united. The laws of the land and the theological ideas guided the ways in which the Jews behaved. It became easy to have a social order because people had to adhere to the laws some of which included not marrying foreign wives as a way to heed to the voice of God through the prophets. The Jews also had a common scripture that connected them promoting unity between them. The scripture was also the basis for theological foundations because it was used by the religious leaders to teach people on how to behave and live their lives in a godly manner.
What does “oral Torah” mean?
The Torah were writings that were divided mainly in three main parts based on their order of importance. Torah was mainly influenced by exile influence experience. There was written and oral Torah. The Oral Torah was an idea about God speaking to Moses before his words were written down (Brenner, 2010 p.46). In regards to authority, it has the same power as the written Torah because it was based on the word of mouth. It remains God’s word thus had to be followed/adhered to by the Jews. This is because God provided the accent and vowel marks which were later written down into texts.
Why is it important for the development of Judaism?
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments thus he is considered by the Jews as a man of great courage and wisdom. However, the Jews separated themselves away from their original surrounding to lead a life that was different and hostile. They had a bad experience in exile which led Hecataeus to mix Biblical Exodus to Semitic Hyksos after the Jews were driven out of Egypt (Brenner, 2010 p. 42). However, what makes Oral Torah important is the fact that it was transmitted through word of mouth from generations to generations. Moses had handed over Oral Torah to Joshua through the word of mouth. Later Joshua interpreted the Torah to the Elders, Great Assembly and the Prophets. Ezra led to Great Assembly during the Second Temple which enacted the legislation that made Judaism a society that was viable in exile (Brenner, 2010 p.46). It was crucial that the Jews people memorize Oral Torah because the laws had to be taught to the people until they had all learnt about them.
The Judaism society faithfully transmitted the Oral Torah through their leaders to every generation and their successors (Brenner, 2010 p. 42). Anyone who had to occupy the leadership position in Israel was expected to have mastered the Oral Torah to teach the people.
Brenner, M. (2010). A short history of the Jews. In From exile back home: Priests and prophets. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Brenner, M. (2010). A short history of the Jews. In From Modiin to Jerusalem: A Jewish state stands and falls. Princeton: Princeton University Press.