We must now return to the 2nd century. During the period which followed the later canonical books, not only was translation, and therefore exegesis, cultivated, but even more the amplification of the Law. According to Jewish teaching Halakhah. (e.g. Abhoth i. 1) Moses received on Mount Sinai not only the written Law as set down in the Pentateuch, but also the Oral Law, which he communicated personally to the 70 elders and through them by a “chain of tradition” to succeeding ages. The application of this oral law is called Halakhah, the rules by which a man’s daily “walk” is regulated. The halakhah was by no means inferior in prestige to the written Law. Indeed some teachers even went so far as to ascribe a higher value to it, since it comes into closer relation with the details of everyday life. It was not independent of the written Law, still less could it be in opposition to it. Rather it was implicitly contained in the Torah, and the duty of the teacher was to show this. It was therefore of the first importance that the chain of tradition should be continuous and trustworthy. The line is traced through biblical teachers to Ezra, the first of the Sōpherīm or scribes, who handed on the charge to the “men of the Great Synagogue,” a much-discussed term for a body or succession of teachers inaugurated by Ezra. The last member of it, Simon the Just (either Simon I., who died about 300 B.C., or Simon II., who died about 200 B.C.), was the first of the next series, called Elders, represented in the tradition by pairs of teachers, ending with Hillel and Shammai about the beginning of the Christian era. Their pupils form the starting-point of the next series, the Tannāīm (from Aram. tenā to teach), who occupy the first two centuries C.E.
Hebrew Literature by Arthur Ernest Cowley
Because the Written Law of the Jews (found in the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses) could not cover all exigencies, over the centuries a body of Oral Law had developed. In order to preserve this tradition, Judah spent some 50 years in Bet Sheʿarim sifting the Oral Law, which he then compiled into six orders dealing with laws related to agriculture, festivals, marriage, civil law, the temple service, and ritual purity. His purpose was not only to preserve a storehouse of tradition and learning but also to decide which statement of Halakhot (laws) was normative.
Tannāīm (Tannaim, or Tanaim): any of several hundred Jewish scholars who, over a period of some 200 years, compiled oral traditions related to religious law. Most tannaim lived and worked in Palestine.
The tannaim were succeeded by other scholars, called amoraim (“interpreters” or “reciters”) who, in Palestine and Babylonia, wrote extensive commentaries (Gemara) on the Mishna. The Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds thus have the same Mishnaic content but significantly different Gemara.
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