Chapters on Jewish Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 153 pages of information about Chapters on Jewish Literature.

The Jews found some consolation for present sorrows in the thought of past deliverances.  The short historical record known as the “Scroll of Fasting” (Megillath Taanith) was perhaps begun before the destruction of the Temple, but was completed after the death of Trajan in 118.  This scroll contained thirty-five brief paragraphs written in Aramaic.  The compilation, which is of great historical value, follows the order of the Jewish Calendar, beginning with the month Nisan and ending with Adar.  The entries in the list relate to the days on which it was held unlawful to fast, and many of these days were anniversaries of national victories.  The Megillath Taanith contains no jubilations over these triumphs, but is a sober record of facts.  It is a precious survival of the historical works compiled by the Jews before their dispersion from Palestine.  Such works differ from those of Josephus and the Sibyl in their motive.  They were not designed to win foreign admiration for Judaism, but to provide an accurate record for home use and inspire the Jews with hope amid the threatening prospects of life.



Whiston’s English Translation, revised by Shilleto (1889).

Graetz.—­II, p. 276 [278].


S.A.  Hirsch.—­Jewish Sibylline Oracles, J.Q.R., II, p. 406.



     The Amoraim compile the Palestinian Talmud and the Babylonian
     Talmud.—­Representative Amoraim: 
       I (220-280) Palestine—­Jochanan, Simon, Joshua, Simlai;
          Babylonia—­Rab and Samuel. 
      II (280-320) Palestine—­Ami, Assi, Abbahu, Chiya;
          Babylonia—­Huna and Zeira. 
     III (320-380) Babylonia—­Rabba, Abayi, Rava. 
      IV (380-430) Babylonia—­Ashi (first compilation of the
          Babylonian Talmud). 
       V and VI (430-500) Babylonia—­Rabina (completion of the
          Babylonian Talmud).

The Talmud, or Gemara ("Doctrine,” or “Completion"), was a natural development of the Mishnah.  The Talmud contains, indeed, many elements as old as the Mishnah, some even older.  But, considered as a whole, the Talmud is a commentary on the work of the Tannaim.  It is written, not in Hebrew, as the Mishnah is, but in a popular Aramaic.  There are two distinct works to which the title Talmud is applied; the one is the Jerusalem Talmud (completed about the year 370 C.E.), the other the Babylonian (completed a century later).  At first, as we have seen, the Rabbinical schools were founded on Jewish soil.  But Palestine did not continue to offer a friendly welcome.  Under the more tolerant rulers of Babylonia or Persia, Jewish learning found a refuge from the harshness experienced under those of the Holy Land.  The Babylonian Jewish schools in Nehardea, Sura, and Pumbeditha rapidly surpassed the Palestinian in reputation, and in the year 350 C.E., owing to natural decay, the Palestinian schools closed.

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Chapters on Jewish Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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