Introduction to Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli continued . . .

In the Second Temple period (516 B.C.E.-70 C.E.), great changes enveloped the Jews in the land of Israel. Alexander the Great conquered the Persians in Israel in 332 B.C.E. and Jewish culture thereafter fell under Greek, and later, Roman, rule and cultural influence. Under Seleucid rule, Jews came to be more and more oppressed, until finally they rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and liberated Jerusalem in 164 B.C.E. Members of the Hasmonean dynasty, who led the revolution, ruled Jewish life until 63 B.C.E. Independent Hasmonean rule ended when Judea came under the rule of Rome. A turbulent political period followed, culminating in the revolt against Rome that began in 66 C.E. and ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70. When a decision was made to establish a Roman colony on Jerusalem's ruins, the Bar Kokhba revolt ensued in 132. By 135 C.E., when the revolt ended, the Jewish population in the land of Israel had been decimated through death, enslavement, and emigration.

The literature produced during the Second Temple period was vast and varied. The texts from this era that have survived consist of testaments, apocalyptic literature, biblical exegesis by Philo (ca. 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.), and the Dead Sea scrolls. Though some Jews had lived in Babylonia since the First Temple's destruction in 586 B.C.E., with their presence continuing throughout the whole Second Temple period, diaspora communities became more populous, prosperous, and important after the Second Temple's fall.

When the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans, a new form of Judaism gradually came into being, based on continuing interpretation of the Tanach. While the synagogue already had existed in some form during the Second Temple period, it became more important after the Temple's destruction. In time, a culture of study, text development, and worship services within the synagogue came to replace the Temple. The replacements, though, were generally considered to be second best, and a lingering nostalgia for the Temple permeates Jewish texts and worship to the present day. The sages who promulgated the "Oral Torah"-that is, interpretations of the "Written Torah," as the Tanach came to be called-engaged in persuasive creativity to convince Jews to follow their vision of a Judaism without a Temple. Eventually this vision was accepted, but the sages who composed this rabbinic literature never operated from a base of easy authority and universally accepted symbolism as did the priests in the Temple. The texts that we will examine will reflect the development of rabbinic culture and its glacial pace of ascendance over the priestly culture that preceded it.

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