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What are some of the old commentaries prior to 1 BCE of the Torah?

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I believe that there would be commentaries of the Torah older than 1 BCE and that can shed significant light on what the message of God is in terms of its authoritativeness. Israelites have a glorious history of the Kingdoms of David, Israel and Solomon, and it is quite impossible to not have commentaries by respectable Rabbis before 1 BCE. Can people here point me to where are they to be found? After all, inasmuch as the Torah of old was preserved, it is fair-seeming that the interpretations of old should also have been preserved.

asked February 28, 2013

7 Answers

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What I’m assuming is that you mean the Oral Torah. We Jews believe that along with the written Torah on Har (Mt.) Sinai, Moshe (Moses) Rabbeinu also received the Oral Torah as well. The oral portion was to elaborate on how to “understand” (for lack of a better word) the Written Torah. It was forbidden from being written down and passed by word of mouth and tradition from father to son, generation to generation. It was prohibited from being written down for fear that “other nations would gain hold of it and claim they had the true word of G-d” (again, either my brain isn’t functioning correctly or I have the wording wrong, but that’s a general idea) and claim they were the chosen ones. I can’t exactly remember which “event” happened that caused the Oral Torah to finally be penned down, but I do know that it was done so, so that the knowledge would not be “lost.”bi love tried, but for a clearer translation than mine, ask an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

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I should also note that it is the opinion of the Rabbis that it is forbidden for a non-Jew to learn Torah.

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Judaism was a spoken tradition and there was a chain of narration similar to the hadith. One of the earliest written commentaries on the Torah would be the Targum Onkelos and this could be what you’re looking for.

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You might find these links helpful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannaim#Compilers_of_the_Mishnah

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_Talmud

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishnah

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The Mishna was compiled 220CE but it quotes generations of earlier rabbis so you might want to check it out. But, it’s not written in commentary form. Often It just states what the law is. The Talmud then tries to go back and tie the law to the biblical source.
there may be somethings in the dead sea scroll that show how folks back then understood the Torah. i am not so familiar but you should check it out.
also the torah itself was probably not compiled in its current form for very long by that time.

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The Oral Tradition given at Sinai, was not “supposed” to be written down…the Written Torah’s form is writing…the Oral Torah written down is somewhat of a self-contradiction, as we believe the that it’s the job of fathers to teach their sons or at least hire a Rabbi to teach these lessons, especially since all Jewish males not involved in supporting livelihood are commanded to occupy themselves with Torah study…and not studying Torah when one has the ability is a sin called bitul Torah…the oral tradition is necessary to understand the Shivim Panim L’Torah – there are 70 faces to each lesson in the Torah and 5 levels of interpretation.

However, in the face of growing Hellenization of Jews and oppression from idolatrous Romans banning Jewish observances after the Jewish revolt, which started when the Romans aggressively proliferated idol worship in Judea, even affixing the form of an eagle (forbidden as idolatry in Judaism) on Herod’s Temple, the oral tradition was in real fear of being lost, especially as the Romans were hunting down Jewish scholars, it was decided that the oral tradition be codified in the Mishnah. Latter scholars debated the rulings; their origins in the Torah, their applications and delineations etc in what is referred to as the accompanying Gemara…the Mishnah, together with the Gemara, is referred to as the Talmud.

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