Written by: Marc A. Krell
70-200 CE: Period of the Tannaim (“repeaters” of oral traditions)→MISHNAH
200-500 CE: Period of the Amoraim (Mishnah “discussers”)→GEMARA
While the official canonization of the Hebrew Bible ended in the 2nd century B.C.E, the transmission of "Jewish scriptures" has continued unabated in the form of midrash or commentary to the Torah up through today. In fact, one could argue that even during the biblical period, priests, prophets, psalmists, and scribes were composing scripture by recycling and reinterpreting earlier versions of it, illustrating what one biblical scholar Michael Fishbane has referred to as "inner biblical exegesis."
The Pharisees astutely referred to this type of dynamic interpretive process as the Torah shebe'al peh or Oral Torah, which they argued was equally as authoritative as the Torah shebikhtav or Written Torah, because both were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai simultaneously as parallel divine truths. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the tannaim who had memorized the oral interpretations of the Torah by the Pharisees were forced to write them down in order to preserve them, eventually compiling them in the Mishnah by the 3rd century.
|Mishna + Gerara = Talmud|
| ||Jerusalem Talmud|
The organic process of rabbinic commentary continued with the Amoraim, "discussers" of the Mishnah, who later compiled their interpretations in the book of the Gemara, "learning," by the end of the 5th century.Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara comprised the Talmud.While the rabbis of Palestine produced the Jerusalem Talmud, the dispersed rabbinic community of Babylonia produced its own Babylonian Talmud a century later. Yet the rabbis didn't see these texts as merely literary achievements, but rather as a continuation of sacred scripture itself, arguing that every rabbinic interpretation ever to be given was already revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai by God as part of the Oral Torah.