What is the Sequence of Ancient Rabbinical Literature?

Carl Schleicher Eine Streitfrage aus dem Talmud scaled  e

The Torah, the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Talmud and the Sefer haHinnuch work together in the Understanding of Jewish Law.

There is only one English language translation available of The Mishnah and The Tosefta, two very often forgotten and misunderstood texts of Ancient Rabbinical Judaism.

Jewish law book
Jewish law book – image by aboutjewishpeople.com

Translated by Jacob Neusner, Research Professor of Religion and Theology at Bard College, The Mishnah and The Tosefta provide historical perspective to both Christian and Jewish Scholars interested in the ancient practices of Judaism.

The Mishnah and The Tosefta are Separated into Six Parts

The Mishnah in Judaism is a collective of Ancient Jewish Laws on everything from Agriculture to Ritual Purity which derive from the first and second century sages who came at the very end of the great 1,000 year reign of the Jewish people as the great temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

Babylonian Talmud Seder Zeraim
The Mishnah – image by myjewishlearning.com

The Mishnah is a very precise taking apart of the Five Books of Moses also known as The Torah in defining precisely the laws of action and non-action regarding all aspects of human life.

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The Tosefta – image by toseftaonline.com

The Tosefta is an expansion on The Mishnah and is separated into the same six parts:

First Division: Zeraim, The Order of Agriculture

Second Division: Moed, The Order of Appointed Times

Third Division: Nashim, The Order of Women

Fourth Division: Nezikin, The Order of Damages

Fifth Division: Kodashim, The Order of Holy Things

Sixth Division: Tohorot, The Order of Purities

It is divided into six parts – image by facebook.com

Understanding the Order of Rabbinic Literature

It might be surprising to the average reader to note that the order of the ancient rabbinical documents starts with The Mishnah, follows towards The Tosefta and then branches out into the Babylonian Talmud. Ironically, it is The Mishnah and The Tosefta to whom the original Talmudic Sages referred to in their commentaries which became the basis of The Babylonian Talmud. 

The Babylonian Talmud – image by raptisrarebooks.com

The Mishnah laid out a system of law based on scripture which was expanded upon in The Tosefta. The Sages of the Babylonian Talmud took those original law books and created the commentary on these laws of action and non-action which are known collectively today as the Babylonian Talmud.

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Everyman’s Talmud of Rev. Dr. A. Cohen – image by ebay.com

This system of Ancient Rabbinical Literature unifies divine revelation with all rabbinical thought which was to follow. As is stated by Rev. Dr. A. Cohen in Everyman’s Talmud, “From the theory of Torah which underlies the whole of Talmudic doctrine, it inevitably follows that the way to the living of the moral life must be sought, and could only be found, in the Divine Revelation. What the Torah commands and prohibits is the sure guidance, and morality consists in compliance with its precepts.”

What is the Sequence of Ancient Rabbinical Literature?
The Mishnah – image by goodreads.com

As laid out above, all Jewish Laws branch out from The Torah, are defined in The Mishnah, are expounded upon in The Tosefta and are further expounded upon and made into commentary in the Babylonian Talmud.

How the Sefer hacHinnuch Came into Being and Simplified Judaic Law

Sefer hacHinnuch – image by shopeichlers.com

In the thirteenth century, an anonymous scholar wrote another popular Jewish classic entitled Sefer hacHinnuch. He wrote it to introduce his son to the 613 Mitzvoth, or good deeds, from the Torah. The Mitzvoth are a system of laws derived originally from The Torah and explained in greater detail in The Mishnah, The Tosefta and the Babylonian Talmud. But the Sefer hacHinnuch provided easy to understand explanations of the origins of each of the Torah laws and the means in which a practitioner of Judaism could act or not act in accordance with these scriptural admonitions. The Sefer hacHinnuch remains available in a five-volume commentary on these laws.



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