Torah, Tradition, and Innovation

Jonathan Klawans

in Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199928613
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980567 | DOI:
Torah, Tradition, and Innovation

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This chapter begins with a discussion of Josephus’s descriptions of disputes between Pharisees and Sadducees regarding the authority of scripture and tradition. Again, Josephus’s testimony is found to be reasonably commensurate with external evidence. The discussion then expands to a consideration of Josephus’s treatment of the Essene view. Granting that Josephus is less clear about the Essenes’ view of legal authority, there is sufficient reason to question one current trend in scholarship, which elides the Sadducean view with the Qumranic/Essene one. The second half of the chapter reviews Josephus’s discussions of changes to legal practice, including the creation of new festivals such as Purim and Hunukkah, and the Maccabean decision to fight on the Sabbath. It is argued that Josephus’s own approach to law is roughly in line with the Pharisaic he has described: Josephus accepts the authority of scripture and tradition, but opposes changes imposed by illegitimate leaders or that were put in place without the people’s consent. It is observed that Josephus does not accept the authority of post-Mosaic prophetic legislation—which curiously puts Josephus at odds with the Dead Sea sect.

Keywords: Halakhah/Jewish Law; Oral Torah; Midrash; scripturalism; prophecy; ancestral traditions; Pharisaic; Sabbath; warfare on

Chapter.  18152 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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