Source: H. Graetz, History of the Jews, volume II (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1893) 487.
“How great a reverence was felt for Judah may be seen from the fact that, on his death, no less honors were paid to his body than had been shown by his grandfather, Judah I. In direct opposition to the Law, a descendant of Aaron was compelled to take charge of his corpse; it being alleged that it was permissible in this instance to lay aside the holy character of his priesthood.”
I chose to write on this quote rather than one on Origen’s Hexapla because I don’t have a lot of time. I have to leave at 7:15.
What has intrigued me about Graetz is that he points out examples in which rabbis and Jewish leaders simply disregarded the Torah. At least that’s how Graetz portrays it. He hardly ever cites his sources, so I don’t know if the Jewish leaders said a law could be disobeyed, or instead looked for exegetical ways to circumvent the law.
Graetz said that Jochanan nullified a certain law about adultery in the first century C.E., when adultery was rampant (see An Adulterous Generation–Even According to the Mishnah). That checks, sort of. Mishnah Sotah indeed says that Jochanan nullified that law, yet it cites Hosea 4:14 as a proof-text. But Jochanan still nullified the law. At the same time, Hillel introduced the prosbul to circumvent the land Sabbath. For some reason, he felt that he couldn’t simply declare the law null-and-void. He saw a need to bypass it legally.