Scripture versus Tradition

Aharon Shemesh

in Halakhah in the Making

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259102
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945036 | DOI:
Scripture versus Tradition

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The new tendency of the Sadducees to appeal to Scripture for practical guidance caused a cultural and religious chain reaction. This chapter deals with the issue of the authority of the holy text versus traditional religious norms, delving into the Second Temple period. It explores the disputes and mutual agreements between Pharisaic and Sadducee-priestly halakhic systems in order to enable a detailed description and analysis of the changes that took place from that time onward. It explains the old traditions in accordance with their biblical origins. The exegetical techniques used in these explanations turned into creative tools, and new norms that resulted from the reading of Scripture were introduced, authorized by rewriting the Pentateuch in accordance with them. Due to the fact that any direct evidence for the Pharisees' legal tradition is not available, the inquiry is based on several methodological assumptions and involves some serious difficulties. While the sectarians left a relatively large textual inheritance of their literary creation, all present day knowledge of the Pharisaic halakhah stems from indirect sources. These include the writings of Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, the references to the Pharisees and their halakhah in the New Testament, rabbinical traditions concerning their forefathers' halakhah, and of course, what the scrolls themselves testify concerning the sectarians' rivals.

Keywords: Sadducees; Second Temple; Pharisaic; legal tradition; Pharisaic halakhah; Flavius Josephus

Chapter.  10560 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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