Resources: Naftali Cohn, The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis

This should be of interest to anyone working in related fields.

The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis
Naftali S. Cohn
248 pages | 6 x 9 | 5 illus.
Cloth Nov 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4457-1 | $69.95s | £45.50 | Add to cart
A volume in the Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion series
View table of contents

When the rabbis composed the Mishnah in the late second or early third century C.E., the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed for more then a century. Why, then, do the Temple and its ritual feature so prominently in the Mishnah? Against the view that the rabbis were reacting directly to the destruction and asserting that nothing had changed, Naftali S. Cohn argues that the memory of the Temple served a political function for the rabbis in their own time. They described the Temple and its ritual in a unique way that helped to establish their authority within the context of Roman dominance.

At the time the Mishnah was created, the rabbis were not the only ones talking extensively about the Temple: other Judaeans (including followers of Jesus), Christians, and even Roman emperors produced texts and other cultural artifacts centered on the Jerusalem Temple. Looking back at the procedures of Temple ritual, the rabbis created in the Mishnah a past and a Temple in their own image, which lent legitimacy to their claim to be the only authentic purveyors of Jewish tradition and the traditional Jewish way of life. Seizing on the Temple, they sought to establish and consolidate their own position of importance within the complex social and religious landscape of Jewish society in Roman Palestine.

Naftali S. Cohn teaches religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

HT: Brice Jones!

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3 thoughts on “Resources: Naftali Cohn, The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis

  1. Isn’t interesting how modern scholarship immediately questions why the Temple rituals were so much a part of the Mishna? My assessment is that the Mishna is what it claims to be, which is the living memory of those practices and rituals where mainstream during the time that the Temple stood. 🙂

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