Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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9 6
His View of the Second Commonwealth
Zeitlin does not view Judaism of the Second Commonwealth as
a forerunner of Christianity, a view held by Christian scholars and
accepted by Jewish scholars who have imitated the Gentiles, only
modifying somewhat their concepts. He rather insists that a study
of Judaism of the Second Commonwealth is indispensible for a
comprehensive understanding of the origin of Christianity. A
thorough knowledge of the sources of the early tannaitic literature
is a
sine qua non
for the proper understanding of the Gospels and
early Christianity. Christian scholars have written on the history
of the Second Temple, seeking to understand the Parting of the
Ways; yet, they have not penetrated into the mind and psychology
of Judaism because they do not know tannaitic literature. One
cannot merely depend upon Josephus.
Zeitlin always taught that for a study of the Second Common-
wealth a critico-historic approach of tannaitic records must be
taken, based on the primary sources of literature, independent
even of amoraic interpretations and injections. However, he does
not rely merely on Jewish sources. He speaks much of the classical
authors—Greek and Roman historians—Polybius, Livy, Appian,
Diodorus, Justin, etc. Hence, he concludes that one must know
world history to understand Jewish history.
Never relying on any secondary source and using only primary
investigation, Zeitlin has infused a pervasive freshness in all of
his study, sometimes even a brazenness resented by some scholars.
His mottos are: “Amicus Plato, sed magis amico veritas,” and
“You cannot mix good will and scholarship.״ He insists on recog-
nizing terms in their proper places and is opposed to anachronisms
of commentators or even confusion between parallel sources. One
must distinguish between tannaitic and amoraic literature, be-
tween Palestinian and Babylonian sources, and especially not to
read the commentaries as part of an original text. Later rabbinic
literature, or even the
of Megillat Ta’anit, cannot be
sources for the history of the Pharisees. To declare for instance that
lex talionis
was one of the differences of opinion of the Pharisees
and Sadducees recorded in the Talmud, is wrong. The only meager
reference to such a concept is in the late
of Megillat Ta’anit
and it is questionable whether R. Eliezer’s view in Baba Kama is
Sadducean. Likewise, in an article on the “Liturgy of Passover,”
Zeitlin has shown that
Shabbat ha-Gadol
is not at all talmudic;
it is derived from apocalyptic notions. The prayer “Elah Ezkerah,”
too, has apocalyptic origins.
Contrary to the current opinion, he maintains that the calendar
used in the Bible of pre-exilic days was solar, like that described
in the Book of Jubilees; also that the Book of Jubilees notes the