Leatham, Jeremy, et. al. "Talmudic Period of Jewish History." Faithology.com. Faithology, 9 May 2013. Web. 9 October 2015.

Leatham, J., et. al. (2013, May 9). Talmudic Period of Jewish History. Faithology. Retrieved from http://faithology.com/history/talmudic-period-of-jewish-history

Leatham, Jeremy, et. al"Talmudic Period of Jewish History" Faithology, LLC. Last modified May 9, 2013. http://faithology.com/history/talmudic-period-of-jewish-history

Leatham, Jeremy, et. alTalmudic Period of Jewish History. Faithology, LLC, 2012. http://faithology.com/history/talmudic-period-of-jewish-history (Accessed Oct 9, 2015).

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  • Last Updated: May 9, 2013
  • Originally Published: May 9, 2013
  • Talmudic Period of Jewish History

After the First Roman War, which resulted in the complete destruction of the Second Temple and the prohibition of Jewish statehood by the Roman Empire, the Jewish community was forced to redefine itself and find new ways to perpetuate a sense of Jewish identity and unity. Jews could no longer think of themselves as a political body, nor could they unite around the important rituals of the Temple. It was during this time that the rabbinical institution 1For many years, Judaism was ruled by the aristocratic priestly class. Rabbis, who were pious, educated men, arose as religious authorities in Judaism, particularly after the destruction of the Second Temple and the decline of priestly influence. became so powerful within Judaism. With the absence of Temple rituals, rabbis emphasized adherence to the oral law, the application of the written law that governed Jewish practices. Debates over the meaning of the written law by these pious religious leaders led to extensive commentaries on Jewish sacred texts which continue to define Judaism to this day.

Jewish settlements outside the land of Israel grew in number, size, and religious influence as it became increasingly clear that the Diaspora would characterize Judaism. One particularly strong Jewish community was found in Babylon, where many Jews had remained after the Babylonian Captivity (586 – 538 BCE). The Babylonian community had long been a center of Jewish learning, and with the fall of Jerusalem and the diminishing influence of the Jews who remained in Israel, the Babylonian community emerged as the effectual center of Judaism. It was there that scholars and rabbis produced, recorded, compiled, and codified the material that would become the Talmud, Judaism's record of the oral law and commentary. Jews in Jerusalem also compiled their own version of the Talmud, but the Babylonian Talmud became recognized as the preeminent version.

It is no coincidence that these two versions of the Talmud, or Judaism's oral law, emerged after the destruction of the Second Temple and the scattering of the Jewish population. Jewish religious leaders had long been interpreting the Torah, the written law, for everyday application and greater spiritual understanding, but there was no need to write down these interpretations. In fact, such recording was prohibited in Judaism, since Jews felt it was important to perpetuate living traditions. With the scattering of Jews throughout Europe, Africa, and the East, however, it became necessary for Jews to have a common written interpretation of the scriptures that prescribed Jewish practices in detail. This act of interpreting the scriptures became one of the most important roles of the rabbis.

During this time, Judaism faced increasing hostility from the ruling powers, most of who saw Judaism as a threat, or at least a nuisance, particularly after the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Jews were considered outsiders wherever they lived, and from this time, they encountered prejudices and persecution. Even after the decline of the Roman Empire, negative attitudes toward Jews persisted in the West and the East. In the face of increasing persecution, Jews tended to rally around their local synagogues to strengthen and support one another as well as to worship and perpetuate their heritage and traditions.