Adult Learning with Dr. Jacob Meskin
Meets as Scheduled

The Adult Education Committee Presents:

Professor Jacob Meskin

Was There A "Rabbinic Revolution"?  A New and Different View of the History of Judaism

When: 10 Classes, Wednesday evening 7:00-9:00 p.m. January 25, February 8, 22, March 8, 22, April 5, 26 and May 3, 10, 24

Registration: Now through December 26, 2016

Class limited to 20 students, no prior knowledge required.

A lottery method will be employed to fill class spots.

Click here to put your name in the lottery.

Cost: $150. Scholarships are available.

 Many modern Jews who have spent even a little time studying Jewish history know something about the rabbis, a famous group of ancient sages who led the Jewish people after the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE and wrote the Talmud.   They also know in a general way that the rabbis, the books they produced, and their commitment to "study as a way of life" decisively shaped Judaism and Jewish life. 

But what if a big and important part of this story were not true? 

Over the last thirty years academic scholars who study the rabbis have created a much more complicated and intriguing picture of who the rabbis were, where they came from, what they wrote, and how they lived.   Unlike the established point of view, this new paradigm denies that the rabbis led the Jewish people after the destruction of the second temple.  It instead portrays the rabbis as a small, esoteric, and marginal Jewish sect, one that had little political influence among, and even less political power over, their fellow Jews.       

These scholars emphasize that the rabbinic movement embodied a kind of Judaism that was, in many ways, discontinuous with respect to what Judaism had been up to and directly after the destruction of the second temple.  They see the rabbis as innovators, a small and determined group of families who fashioned a unique and seemingly elitist way of life.  In this view, the rabbis created a new form of Jewish identity that offered a profound and yet supple kind of resistance to the Roman and Greek cultural world they encountered living in a distant province of the Roman empire. 

This course offers a sophisticated introduction to the rabbis and the rabbinic period using this exciting framework.  We will look closely at the following:

i) The political, sociological, and domestic realities of the lives of the Rabbis, their wives, and their families;

ii) The relationship between the rabbis and significant earlier groups, such as the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Dead Sea community, and early Christianity;

iii) The influences of Persian culture and Zoroastrian religion on the Babylonian Talmud;

iv) The different kinds of spirituality the rabbis developed and passed on to later Jews, and

v) The relationship between the kinds of Jewish identity the rabbis created, and how we understand Jewish identity today.

If there are any questions, please contact Marcus Cohn, Chair at

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