Using Rabbinic Literature for the Study of the Second Temple Period

Reblogging for this part: “Here is an example of what I mean. A Second Temple example of tithing multiple times a year is Tobit. He is described as giving a tenth to the Levites, spending a tenth in Jerusalem, a tenth to “those to whom it is his duty” (Tobit 1:7f). Jubilees 32:10-14 refers to a second tithe, and 32:15 mentions a tithe on cattle. Josephus also seems to say Moses required two tithes every year except the third and sixth, when three per year were required. This would be a total of fourteen tithes per seven years (Antiq. 4.69, 205, 240). The Mishnah developed the twelve-tithe system (see Ma’aser and Ma’aser Sheni), two tithes per year except the Sabbath year, and less tithe needs to be spent in Jerusalem than Josephus. An individual may have had a hard time convincing a Temple tithe collector he had already paid his share!

“But did anyone actually give the tithes as described by a fictional righteous Diaspora Jew (Tobit) or the idealistic writer of Jubilees? Perhaps the Mishnah preserves a tradition which was practiced by some, or the opinion of the later rabbis about how tithes were supposed to be paid (whether they were or not).”

Reading Acts

In a previous post I included rabbinic literature as a possible source for the study of the Second Temple period. I hesitated to include this on my list and placed it last intentionally. I was asked on twitter by @woofboy to expand on this point. (Sorry, I do not actually know a real name!)

Image result for rabbinical literature Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, printed by Daniel Bomberg, Venice, 1522.

By rabbinic literature, I primarily mean the Mishnah, a collection of legal commentaries on the Torah. The Mishnah as we know it today was not written until about A.D. 250, but there are oral traditions which likely go back to a generation or two before Jesus. The rulings of Hillel and Shammai are often discussed in the Mishnah; Hillel died about A.D. 10 and Shammai died about A.D. 30.  Before the Mishnah, the Tannaim (“the repeaters”) passed these traditional rulings along orally. After these oral…

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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