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Thoughts for Shabbat: Rabbinic Judaism Emerges

A wonderful passage from Jacob Neusner, which shows again that religion is change:

Surveying the landscape of ancient Judaism from the perspective of the Maccabean times, ca. 150 B.C.E., we search in vain for the rabbi as model and authority, Torah as the principle and organizing symbol, study of Torah as the capital religious deed, the life of religious discipline as the prime expression of what it means to be Israel, the Jewish people.

These definitive characteristics of Judaism as we know it, and as the world has known it from late antiquity, simply make no appearance. In particular, we find no evidence whatever of the rabbi as the Torah incarnate and the human being who shows what it means to be “like God,” “in our image and likeness.”

These twin notions define Judaism as it has flourished for nearly twenty centuries, and, as I said, we find no evidence whatsoever that anyone help them much before the first century, if then.

– Jacob Neusner, “Variteties of Judaism in the Formative Age,” in Arthur Green ed., Jewish Spirituality, Volume 1: From the Bible Through the Middle Ages, 171-174.