The Forgotten Jewish Texts That Came after the Bible

July 13 2017

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the middle of the last century, together with the mining of the ancient texts found in the Cairo Genizah, has given scholars access to a wide range of Jewish religious texts composed in the approximately four centuries between the end of the biblical period and the composition of the Mishnah (the earlier stratum of the Talmud) around 200 CE. In Outside the Bible, three distinguished scholars of ancient Judaism have brought together translations of these works. Hindy Najman writes in her review:

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars assumed that there was some kind of closing of the canon in the Maccabean period [the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE] or even slightly later, in the 1st century CE. References to the 24, or 22, books or occasional allusions to the end of prophecy were often cited to justify this hypothesis. Of course, this presupposed that there was already something like a canon, a set of texts that approximated our present-day Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, and that other ancient Jewish texts stood outside of this collection.

What the biblical manuscripts discovered at Qumran definitively showed was that the canon didn’t close in the Second Temple period, indeed that it is anachronistic to think in these terms. Texts such as Jubilees show that new works were being written that continue to make comparable claims [about their own importance and sanctity] to Deuteronomy and Chronicles, while others, such as Philo’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus, interpret and develop already established authoritative biblical works. This demonstrates both that biblical books were being authorized and stabilized on the one hand and that there was ongoing and continuous writing of texts that can only be described as biblical on the other. Revelation did not end with the advent of interpretation.

The [old] schematic understanding of the history of Judaism as occurring in two [distinct] phases—first the Bible and then rabbinic interpretation of the Bible—is, in short, deeply mistaken.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Second Temple

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia