Although the ethnic-religious tradition that became classical Judaism solidified around 100 CE, its roots are found in the ancient biblical tales of the Israelites. Stories of the descent into Egypt, the Exodus under Moses, and the eventual rise of the Israelite monarchy are essential to understanding classical rabbinic Judaism. Through the lens of modern biblical scholarship, Hayes explores the shifting cultural contexts―the Babylonian exile, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine period, the rise of Christianity―that affected Jewish thought and practice, and laid the groundwork for the Talmudic era and its modern legacy.
Thematic chapters explore the evolution of Judaism through its beginnings in biblical monotheism, the Second Temple Period in Palestine, the interaction of Hellenism and Judaism, the spread of rabbinic authority, and the essence of ethno-religious Jewish identity. Biographical sketches of key figures from patriarchs to prophets, and primary selections from the Hebrew bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Talmud, and others, allow for a greater understanding of an ancient movement, and provide a solid introduction to the origins of one of the world's most influential religions.
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