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<strong>THE SCHOOL OF ROUEN : its Book and its books</strong>

The Hebrew Bible of the Jewish people corresponds, to the Old Testament of Christianity. It contains three main divisions : The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (or Hagiographa).

The Torah, habitually translated by the term Law, but which basically signifies Teaching or Instruction, includes five main divisions (thus in Greek : Pentateuch) that are anciently attributed to Moses, namely : Genesis (=Creation of the World) ; Exodus (=Departure from Egypt) ; Leviticus (=Laws relating to the Priests and Levites) ; Numbers (= Census of the Hebrews during the Desert Wanderings) ; and Deuteronomy (=Moses’s Repetition of the Laws ).

It was at the initiative of the Macedonian monarch of Egypt Ptolemy Philadelphus -who desired to be friendly both to the Jewish community of his realm as well as to all other Jews and their descendants everywhere, that the Torah was translated into Greek during the 3rd century B.C. The translation of the other Biblical books took place gradually during the following few centuries, in this way forming the Septuagint- the most used Greek text of the Bible.

Alongside the Written Law contained in the Torah, the rabbinical heirs of the Pharisees asserted the existence of an Oral Law going back to Moses. As the main group to survive the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem’s Second Temple (70 after j.c.), the rabbinic Jews took pains to assure the survival of Judaism without the Temple, which had been the ancient Hebrews’ central cultic establishment for centuries. They therefore created numerous academies where the rabbinic masters of the Law were charged with the responsibility of organizing and interpreting the entire corpus of received traditions. The ensuing body of laws and traditions was later incorporated into and expanded in the Talmudic writings.

There are in reality two Talmuds, the so-called Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud, assembled mainly in Tiberias and which has survived in an incomplete state, and the Babylonian Talmud, compiled during the same general period of time in the rabbinic academies of that country. This latter text, given its general form by the rabbinic Master Rav Ashi (342-427) and editorially completed by his disciple Rabbina II in the 5th century, remains the main work studied and commented upon in all the rabbinical academies of later generations.