What Happened to Produce the Mishnah?

I've always liked the article I wrote for the Anchor Bible Dictionary in 1992 called "JUDAISM, THE MISHNAIC PERIOD." Here is an excerpt:

Historical discontinuities and developments.

Several key historical and social forces shaped Judaism in this period. The destruction of Temple and the subsequent Roman imperial domination of Israel deprived Jewish leaders of meaningful political power and forced them to turn inward for fresh expressions of Jewish identity. The failure of a messianic rebellion against Rome under the leadership of Simeon bar Kokhba with support from leading rabbis in 132-135 C.E. left little doubt of the futility of hope for the restoration of political independence under the Judaic leadership of that age. In this period the influence of quasi-governmental Jewish authorities, such as the patriarchate, declined and the authority of the rabbinate, internal to the Jewish communities of the near East (Israel and Babylonia), increased. The rise and spread of Christianity and other serious competing religious systems in the area in this epoch demanded that Judaic religious leaders articulate new understandings of Israelite destiny.

The irrepressible hope for redemption from political subjugation led to complex speculation on the nature of the promise of messianic redemption, a subject of Israelite contemplation in earlier ages (cf. biblical depictions in Isaiah and Micah). Overall, the rabbinic emphasis on Torah overshadowed and even eclipsed many of the major themes of alternative theological world views inherent in the received Israelite heritage.

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