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Transformations in Ancient Judaism: Textual Evidence for Creative Responses to Crisis

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The Jewish people endured three crises during the formation of what would become the Jewish canon, which significantly shaped their religion. The destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., the destruction of Herod’s Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., and the acceptance of Christianity as the state religion of Rome in 363 C.E. each signaled the apparent end of Jewish religion. Instead of succumbing to defeat and despair, Judaism arose from each crisis as a result of its religious leaders’ reinterpretation of its sacred texts. In Transformations, Jacob Neusner reasons that the Jewish canonical writings—the Hebrew Bible, Mishnah, Talmuds, and the Midrash—illustrate Judaism’s response to those three social, cultural, and political crises. Faced with these catastrophic events, the rabbinic sages explored anew the paradigms of piety and practice that they had received from previous generations. The result was that they discovered a truth both continuous with the past and responsive to the unanticipated crisis—a truth that carved out a path for the future. This process, represented in the Jewish canon, continues to define modern Judaism.

  • Analyzes Judaism’s response to social, cultural, and political crises
  • Explores religion as an act of shared culture
  • Examines three generative transformations in the formation of rabbinic Judaism
  • Introduction
  • Exile and Return and the Response of the Torah
  • The Loss of the Jerusalem Temple and the Response of the Mishnah
  • Asymmetries: Gaps in the Pentateuchal-Mishnaic System
  • Rabbinic Judaism and the Emergence of the Christian Empire
  • Symmetries: History and Messiah in the Talmudic-Midrashic System
  • Stability and the Next Turning Point
Jacob Neusner’s Transformations in Ancient Judaism is a masterful presentation of the conclusions of his studies, over the course of more than twenty years, of the documents of ancient Judaism in their historical settings. Building on the recognition that religion is a public phenomenon—an ‘act of shared culture’—Neusner recounts the development of subsequent Judaic systems as they respond to the major challenges of ancient Jewish history. This is not a dry history of religious systems preserved in documentary records; it is a dramatic history of religious geniuses overcoming catastrophe—a story of ‘how hope overcomes despair’.

—David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian, Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary

  • Title: Transformations in Ancient Judaism: Textual Evidence for Creative Responses to Crisis
  • Author: Jacob Neusner
  • Publisher: Hendrickson
  • Print Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 192
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2020-07-24T19:22:39Z

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Jacob Neusner

Jacob Neusner (1932–2016) was a preeminent scholar of ancient Judaism and one of the most published authors ever, with more than 900 original volumes to his name. He was educated at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the University of Oxford, and Yale University. He was research professor of theology and senior fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College. Neusner’s work has been highly influential, if sometimes controversial. He pioneered applying “form criticism” to Rabbinic texts, and aimed at a humanistic and academic reading of ancient Jewish literature.

Neusner’s works include the Jacob Neusner Jewish Studies Bundle (99 vols.).


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    Digital list price: $24.95
    Save $11.96 (47%)

    Almost funded