An Ancient River of Thought
A wealth of literature actually exists from the centuries before and after Christ. Best known are the Mishnah and the Talmud, two collections of discussions on the laws of the Torah from between 200 BC and AD 500. They reveal an ancient river of thought that flowed through Jesus’ world, which fills in gaps in our understanding.
Some of some of Judaism’s most influential thinkers, including Hillel and Shammai, lived in the decades right around Jesus’ time. Hillel’s grandson, Gamaliel, was Paul’s teacher. These rabbinic teachers are quoted even today. Their words allow us to reconstruct the conversations going on around Jesus.