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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

8 - The origins and development of the rabbinic movement in the Land of Israel

For the period covered in this chapter, between 70 CE and the middle decades of the fourth century, rabbis in Palestine appeared to be a numerically small group of religious experts with limited influence. Recent generations of historians have learned to disentangle the question of rabbinic origins from the history of the Second Temple period. The historiography of the rabbinic movement is almost entirely dependent upon rabbinic literature. Patristic, legal, and epigraphic evidence raises the possibility that rabbis in Palestine had emerged as a group with some prominence by late antiquity. The Mishnah, in its extended legal sweep and more specifically in its citation, adaptation, and appropriation of existing source material, may be read as a grand formalization of rabbinic Torah. Literacy correlated in complicated ways with wealth and social status in the Roman world, and little information is available about the social functions and cultural capital of specifically Hebrew or Aramaic literacy in Roman period Palestine.
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The Cambridge History of Judaism
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