corner graphic

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Rabbinism

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

is that development of Judaism which, after the return from Babylon, but more especially after the ruin of the Temple and the extinction of the public worship, became a new bond of national union, and the great distinctive feature in the character of modern Judaism. After the return from the Babylonian captivity, the Mosaic constitution could be but partially re- established. The whole structure was too much shattered, and its fragments too widely dispersed, to reunite in their ancient and regular form. The Levites who had returned from the captivity, it is true, were the officiating priesthood, and no more. They were bound to be acquainted with the forms and usages of the sacrificial ritual; but the instruction of the people and the interpretation of the law by no means fell necessarily within their province. From the captivity the Jews brought with them a reverential, or, rather, a passionate, attachment to the Mosaic law; and this it seems to have been the prudent policy of their leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, to encourage by all possible means as the great bond of social union, and the unfailing principle of separation from the rest of mankind. By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character: it was not merely at once their Bible and their statute-book; it entered into the most minute detail of common life. "But no written law can provide for all possible exigencies. Whether general and comprehensive, or minute and multifarious, it equally requires the expositor to adapt it to the immediate case which may occur, either before the public tribunal or that of the private conscience. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes. Learning of the law became the great distinction to which all alike paid reverential homage. Public and private affairs depended on the sanction of this self-formed spiritual aristocracy," or rabbinical oligarchy, which, itself held together by a strong corporate spirit, by community of interest, by identity of principle, has contributed, more than any other external cause, to knit together in one body the widely dispersed members of the Jewish family, and to keep them the distinct and separate people which they appear in all ages of the world.

The first stage of development appears in the work of the so-called Sopherim, the last of whom was Simon the Just (q.v.); and their work will be more fully described in the art. SCRIBES. The Sopherim were followed by another class of men, known as the Tanaim, or teachers of the law (the νομοδιδάσκαλοι in the N.T.), comprising a period from B.C. 200 to A.D. 220. While we reserve a description of their work for the art. SCRIBES, we will only mention that from this school proceeded the oldest Midrashim, as Aechilta, Siphra, and Siphri (See MIDRASH, AND THE MISHNA) (q.v.). The most distinguished rabbins of the Tanaim (who are in part given already, or will be given, in this Cyclopopdia) were:

1. Antigonus of Soho (B.C. 200-170), whose famous maxim "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving wages, but be like servants who serve their master without expecting to receive wages; and let the fear of the Lord be upon you" (Aboth, i, 3) a maxim pronounced by Pressense (in his Jesus Christ: his Times, etc.) as "[a noble and almost evangelical one],* truly a most beautiful maxim, and one denoting a legitimate reaction from the legal formalism which was in process of development" is said to have given rise to Sadduceeism;

2. Jose ben-Joeser, of Zereda, and his companion, Jose ben-Jochanan, of Jerusalem;

3. Jochanan, the high-priest (commonly called John Hyrcanus, q.v.);

4. Jehoshua ben-Perachja, the reputed teacher of Christ, and his colleague, Nithai of Arbela (q.v.);

5. Simon ben-Shetach (q.v.) and Jehudah benTabai;

6. Shemaja (q.v.) and Abtalion; 7. Hillel I (q.v.);

8. Simon ben-Hillel I (q.v.);

9. Gamaliel I (q.v.);

10. Simon II ben-Gamaliel (q.v.), who fell at the defence of Jerusalem;

11. Jochanan ben-Zachai (q.v.);

12. Gamaliel II, of Jabne (q.v.);

13. Simon II ben-Gamaliel II (q.v.) and R. Nathan ha-Babli (q.v.);

14. Jehudah I the Holy (q.v.); and,

15. Gamaliel III. The Tanaim were followed by the Amorasim, or later doctors of the law; and the fruits of their work are laid down in the Talmud (q.v.), the completion of which (about A.D. 500) terminated the period of the Amoraim, to be opened by that of the Saborail, or the teachers of the law after the conclusion of the Talmud. To this period (A.D. 500-657), perhaps, belongs the collection, or final redaction, of some of the lesser Talmudic treatises and the Masorah (q.v.). After the Amoraim came the so- called Gaonim, or the last doctors of the law in the chain of Rabbinic succession, comprising a period from A.D. 657 to 1040. The work of these different schools, together with the biographies of the most distinguished men, will be treated more fully in the art. SCRIBES (See SCRIBES) .

On the dissolution of the Babylonian schools, Spain, Portugal, and Southern France became the centre of Rabbinism. As early as about A.D. 1000 the Talmud is said to have been translated into Arabic. In Spain, the most flourishing school was that of Cordova, founded by Moses ben- Chanoch (q.v.). Besides Cordova, Rabbinism flourished in Granada, then in Lucena, the most famous representative of which was Isaac benJacob Alfasi (q.v.). To the 11th and 12th centuries belong especially Jehudah ha- Levi ben-Samuel (q.v.), Aben-Ezra (q.v.), the Kimchis (q.v.), and Solomon Parchon (q.v.). In France flourished Gershom ben-Jehudah, or Rabbenu Gershom (q.v.), and Rashi (q.v.). But the most distinguished of all was Moses Maimonides (q.v.), of Cordova, whose philosophical treatment of tradition divided Judaism, after his death, into two hostile parties; and the Spanish and French schools were divided for some time. When, in 1305, Asher ben-Jechiel, of Germany, came into Spailn, he succeeded in bringing the French school, which was hostile to philosophy, to supremacy, and thus philosophy was proscribed. But there was another kind of philosophy if it deserve that name at all which was especially cultivated in these times the so-called Cabala, as it especially appears in the Sohar (q.v.). As the foremost representatives of this branch of literature, we may mention Meir ibn-Gabbai (q.v.), Joseph Karo (q.v.), Salomo al Kabez, Moses Cordovero (q.v.), Isaac Loria (q.v.), Moses Galante (q.v.), Samuel Laniado (q.v.), Jacob Zemach, and Hajim Vidal. The invention of the art of printing produced a new activity in the Church as well as in the Synagogue, and the first printed edition of the Talmud, in 1520, at Venice; the edition of the second Bomberg Rabbinic Bible, by Jacob ben-Chajim, in 1526; and the writings of Elias Levita (q.v.), are the first Jewish fruits of the art. Rabbinism was again revived and represented in the schools of Brody, Lemberg, Lublin, Cracow, Prague, Firth, Frankfort, Venice, and Amsterdam. The party spirit which, in former ages, was represented in the Spanish and French schools was revived in the Portugueso-Italian and Germano-Polish schools. Moses Mendelssohn (q.v.), and his friends as Hartwig Wessely, David Friedlanider, and others-opened a new epoch, and endeavored to enlighten their coreligionists; but the chasm was not healed. On the contrary, a final division was produced; and Reformed and Orthodox Judaism are the two antipodes of the present day. As a religious system, "Rabbinism," says the late Dr. M'Caul, "has fared like all other religious systems: it has had prejudiced assailants to attack, and over- zealous admirers to defend it. The former have produced whatever they could find objectionable; the latter have carefully kept out of view whatever seemed to its disadvantage. The truth is, that it is a mixed system of good and bad. Founded on the inspired writings of Moses and the prophets, it necessarily contains much truth and wisdom; but, expounded and enlarged by prejudiced men, it presents a strange incongruity of materials." See the art. "Rabbinism," in Herzog's Real-Encyld.; the same art. in Theol. Universal-Lexicon; Wese n des Rabbimismus, in Jost, Gesch. cl. Judenth. u. s. Secten, i, 227 sq.; M'Caul, Sketches of Judaisnm and the Jews (London, 1838), ch. iv "Rabbinism Considered as a Religious System," p. 69 sq. (B. P.)

* The clause in brackets is found in the Amer. ed. of 1868, but is omitted in the 4th Engl. ed. (London, 1871).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rabbinism'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/r/rabbinism.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Rabbinical Dialect
Next Entry
Rabbith
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology