Seminary discussions do sometimes lead me to interesting places. I've been meaning, ever since a did a course on early Judaism for my BTh, to read more and try to actually remember what I was supposed to have learned!
So Friday prompted me to go and read about Jewish law - and here's the absolute basics.
The Torah - most Christians are familiar with this. The first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch, traditionally attributed to Moses as author. It dates from roughly 1400 BC.
Expansion and exposition of the Torah by the Rabbis became known as the Oral Law - presumably because it was spoken and not written down! However, in the second century after Christ, huge persecution of the Jews meant that the number of Rabbis became very small and the fear arose that the oral tradition would no long be maintained. For this reason Rabbi Judah wrote down the Oral Law and this written element, along with the Torah, was known as the Mishnah. The writings were grouped by category, not following the order of the Torah, as a modern day Christian commentary might do.
So we have Torah and then Mishnah.
This writing down did not stop the growth of the Oral Law and in the fourth century and also the fifth century, these further writings were also written down and are known as Talmuds. The earlier is the Palestinian Talmud and the latter the Babylonian. Because the latter is larger and includes the former, most scholarship has been around the Babylonian Talmud.
So - if we want to understand Judaism from a Jewish point of view, our most reliable resource is the Babylonian Talmud. And it is from here that many Jewish Christians create their apologetics, rather than from the Bible.
I found it interesting.