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The function of minim in early rabbinic judaism

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Chapter Summary

In the fateful years after 70 CE when Yohanan ben Zakkai and a small group of rabbinic sages in Yavneh began to formulate a new theology in reaction to the destruction of the Temple, another pious Jew of similar background, Flavius Josephus, composed a passionate tract in which he tried to define the essential character of Judaism. The evidence for a rabbinic notion of heresy lies primarily in references to minim and minuth in tannaitic texts. The contexts in which references to minim are found in tannaitic compilations are rather limited. The method proposed by tannaitic rabbis to deal with minuth was essentially avoidance of contact. It is entirely possible, for example, but unprovable, that a tannaitic tractate entitled Minim once existed within a much wider literature but failed to be preserved.

Keywords: Flavius Josephus; Judaism; minim; minuth; tannaitic rabbis; Yavneh



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