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The present volume of The Cambridge History of Judaism covers the period from the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE to the rise of Islam in the beginning of the seventh century. This era, after the biblical period, is the most consequential in Jewish history, for it is the era when Judaism took on its classical shape as a result of a variety of historical and religious factors, both internal and external. Coincident with the history of the Roman Empire from the early years of the reign of Vespasian to the death of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice in 602, it includes the response(s) of Jews to the cataclysm of 70; the failed Diaspora uprisings of 115–17 during the reign of Trajan; the catastrophic rebellion and defeat of Bar Kochba by the legions of Hadrian between 132 and 135; the ascent of Babylonian Jewry to pre-eminence in the Jewish world after c. 235 (the year that marked the end of the Severan dynasty of Roman emperors); the expansion of the influence of rabbinic culture and the composition of the great rabbinic corpora: the Mishnah, Tosefta, Palestinian Talmud, Babylonian Talmud, and a wide variety of midrashim (biblical commentaries); the early and growing conflict between Christianity and Judaism; and the eventual rise, after 325, of Christianity to world power as a result of the efforts of Constantine and his imperial heirs, a circumstance that, in turn, produced devastating consequences for Jews and the practice of Judaism in both halves of the Empire.
This was also a time when Jews continued to speak and write in Hebrew and Aramaic; when they shaped, out of earlier beginnings, the synagogue liturgy and began to create a new form of religious poetry for the synagogue (piyyutim); when they continued to produce Aramaic translations of the Bible (the Targums; in Hebrew targumim); when they built magnificent as well as less grand synagogues in the Land of Israel and throughout the Diaspora; when their popular culture continued to evolve at home, in the synagogue, and in the academy; when they engaged in magic and mysticism, celebrated the holidays, and hoped for the coming of the Messiah to mark the end of their exile.
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