A crisis was taking place in Palestine - a conflict between the Romans' need for expanding their empire, trade, and strategic locale, and the Jews' need for continuing to serve God with their laws and their holy land.
Beginning with the destruction by the Romans of the second temple in A.D. 70, we have a continuing picture of Pharisee Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, leader of Jewish reconstruction and founder of contemporary Judaism as we know it today: how the Torah affected Yohanan's education, war activities, social problems, and theological issues. Especially important to Jews and Christians alike is the picture of Pharisees and Pharisaism that emerges and the enlightening story of what happened to the many Jews of this first-century who did not become Christians.
First-Century Judaism in Crisis is a popularized version of the author's prize-winning biography of Yohanan ben Zakkai (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1970).
At the heart of the traditional historical method lie three fundamental presumptions. The traditional historical method regularly presumes that multiple versions of a text or tradition are equally authentic; it presumes that many ancient Jewish sources are the products of largely immanent forces of cloistered Jewish communities; and, barring any local grounds for suspicion, it presumes that most ancient Jewish texts faithfully reflect their sources and reliably recount events. Rewriting Ancient Jewish History unfurls the failings of this approach; it promotes the new historical method which circumvents the flawed traditional presumptions while plotting anew the limits of rational argumentation in historical inquiry. This crucial reappraisal is a must-read for students of Jewish and Roman history alike, and a fascinating case-study in how historians should approach their ancient sources.
That legacy played an extraordinarily important role in helping the Jewish people survive difficult challenges to forge a vibrant religious life anew, and it continues to influence Jewish law, ethics, and theology even today. Akiva's contribution to the development of Oral Torah cannot be overestimated, and in this first book written in English about the sage since 1936 Hammer reassesses Akiva's role from the period before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE until the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. He also assesses new findings about the growth of early Judaism, the reasons why Akiva was so outspoken about "Christian Jews," the influence of Hellenism, the Septuagint, and the canonization of the Hebrew Bible. Ultimately Hammer shows that Judaism without Akiva would be a very different religion.