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The Limits of Tolerance: Halakhah and

Schisms in Jewish History: Part 1
Lawrence H. Schiffman 08/05/2014
This post was originally published on Professor Schiffmans website as the first part of a
series of articles on schisms in Jewish history. Bible History Daily republished this
article with the consent of the author. Visit for print and
multimedia resources on the Dead Sea Scrolls the Babylonian Talmud Jesus Hellenism
!hristianity and more.
The Definition of the Problem
The problem of Jewish uni! an" "isuni! is no a new one. #n fac$ i is one which runs
li%e a consan moif hrou&hou he 'iblical perio"$ he Hellenisic a&e$ (e"ie)al an"
mo"ern imes. *s he Jewish communi! in *merica faces he brea%up of ol" alliances
an" new challen&es$ i is onl! fiin& ha we follow he a")ice of he 'oo% of
+eueronom!, -.o an" in/uire of "a!s &one b!0 1+eu. 4,223. 4e shall herefore "e)oe
his su"! o an accoun of a )arie! of secarian conro)ersies an" heir effecs$
specificall! as%in& wh! cerain conro)ersies resul in oal separaion of a &roup from he
Jewish people$ while ohers seem o be olerae". 4e will in)esi&ae four specific
"ispues, hose of he Samarians$ he secs of he Secon" Temple perio"$ he earl! Jewish
5hrisians an" he 6araies.
#n each case$ our cenral concern will be o "isco)er he limus es of Jewish uni!. 4e
will see ha i is he permissibili! of marria&e wih oher Jews. 7u simpl!, 4hene)er a
&roup a%es issue wih he accepe" crieria for Jewish i"eni!$ he mainsream of he
Jewish people e)enuall! respon" b! prohibiin& marria&e wih his &roup. 8nce marria&e
is prohibie" here is lile o be "one o pre)en he e)enual separaion of his &roup from
he Jewish people a lar&e. Henceforh$ he! are a separae people$ no lon&er consi"ere"
o be Jews.
4e will e9amine four prece"ens$ as noe" abo)e. :e we nee" firs o "emonsrae he
rele)ance of such prece"ens. *fer all$ one can ar&ue ha such prece"ens are of
/uesionable )alue$ since con"iions an" imes appear o ha)e been so "ifferen.

"ead #How to Study a Dead Sea Scrolls Te$t% by &awrence H. Schiffman in Bible
History Daily.

6nown as -he hea" of all hose %in&"oms0 in he 'oo% of Joshua$ Ha;or was one of he
mi&hies of he 5anaanie ci!<saes in he perio" before he #sraelie selemen. Photo'
S(y)Balloon courtesy of *mnon Ben)Tor+The Ha,or -$ca.ations.
'u we woul" ar&ue oherwise. The con"iions in which Ju"aism fin"s iself o"a! are
analo&ous o hose in which i foun" iself in each of he hisorical perio"s we will
To"a! he Jewish communi! is li)in& in he afermah of ra"ical chan&es in is naure an"
srucure wrou&h b! he process of mo"erni;aion. (o"erni;aion brou&h in is wa%e a
)arie! of secon"ar! processes, polari;aion an" assimilaion$ enli&henmen$
emancipaion. :e hese same processes occurre" before in Jewish hisor!.
The firs perio" in which hese processes operae" was he perio" of he Ju"&es an" he
(onarch!$ afer he #sraelies enere" an" con/uere" 5anaan. The 'ible "escribes a
len&h he sru&&les of reli&ious an" &roup i"eni! which oo% place. Jews$ =us as he!
"i" in recen imes$ confrone" a -mo"ern0 socie!. 5anaanie socie!$ archaeolo&iss ell
us$ was far in a")ance of ha of he primii)e "eser ribesmen who swep ino 5anaan.
#sraelies were face" wih a )arie! of opions$ from ha a")ocae" b! he 'ible>
complee separaion from he wa!s of he 5anaanies>o complee assimilaion. *ll
%in"s of inerme"iae opions also e9ise". This )er! same process was repeae" in he
Hellenisic era$ when Jews face" he -mo"ern0 socie! of Hellenism an" he )er! same
reacions occurre". *fer he #slamic con/ues of he se)enh cenur! 5.?. he Jews a&ain
were face" wih similar possibiliies$ alhou&h here assimilaion was a much less pracical
opion han in he 'iblical an" Hellenisic perio"s$ an" cerainl! han in mo"ern imes.
The problems face" b! Jews when confrone" b! -mo"ern0 socieies$ in which he
e9ernal culures appear more a")ance"$ commerciall! araci)e an" somehow more
open are similar hrou&hou Jewish hisor!. 5erain elemens in he Jewish ra"iion$
alon& wih he economic$ poliical an" social role of he Jews$ as well as he wa! in which
e9ernal culures reac o he Jews$ all combine o creae a hisor! which$ o use a clich@$
repeas iself. To un"ersan" an! one perio"$ herefore$ ohers mus also be e9amine". To
un"ersan" he conemporar! Jewish con"iion$ is problems an" is &lories$ we mus
appeal o he e)i"ence of he pas. # is in his spiri ha his su"! will e9amine$ in urn$
he Samarian schism$ Jewish secarianism in he Secon" Temple perio"$ he rise of
&enile 5hrisiani! an" he rise of 6araism.
Schisms in Jewish History: Part 2
There is consi"erable scholarl! conro)ers! re&ar"in& he "ae of he Samarian schism.
*lhou&h some see% o i"enif! he ori&ins of he Samarians in he Hellenisic perio"$
heir be&innin&s shoul" be race" bac% o he Ah cenur! '.5.?. 4hen he *ss!rians
"esro!e" he Borhern 6in&"om of #srael in C22$ he! e9ile" he upper crus of socie! in
or"er o "epri)e he counr! of is lea"ership. * he same ime$ as he! "i" elsewhere$
he! brou&h in forei&n elemens in or"er o creae a mi9e" populaion unli%el! o unif!
an" re)ol. These new elemens e)enuall! mi9e" wih he nai)e populaion an" o&eher
he! e)ol)e" a s!ncreisic form of #sraelie worship.
(. .eri;im. Photo' Sonia Halliday.
4hen he Ju"eans reurne" o rebuil" he Temple in abou 520 '.5.?.$ he Samarians$
i"enif!in& wih he Ju"eans$ offere" o help in he en"ea)or. The Ju"eans re=ece" he
Samarians because of heir /uesionable Jewish "escen an" heir s!ncreisic cul. *s a
resul$ lon& cenuries of hosili! be&an. The Samarians consanl! aempe" o bloc% he
rebuil"in& of Jerusalem b! appealin& o 7ersian auhoriies.
Dollowin& heir re=ecion b! he Ju"eans$ he Samarians se up heir own cul cener a
(. .eri;im$ near Schechem$ mo"ern Bablus. :e he subse/uen hisor! of Jewish<
Samarian relaions was one of coninue" "ecline. #n he Hellenisic perio"$ he
Samarians ofen oo% san"s a&ains heir Ju"ean nei&hbors. The Samarian Temple was
"esro!e" b! he Hasmoneans. Boneheless$ hrou&hou his perio"$ he Samarians
coninue" o ha)e an ambi&uous saus as Jews. The! were re&ar"e" as Jews who ha"
somehow been corrupe" in heir reli&ious pracices. *s we ener he annaiic perio"$ we
can race$ &eneraion b! &eneraion$ he process of he final separaion of he Samarians
from he Jews. Eelaionships were "eeriorain&$ especiall! as he Samarians si"e" wih
he Eomans$ perhaps alrea"! in he .rea Ee)ol 1AAFC2 5.?.3 bu "efiniel! in he 'ar
6o%hba Ee)ol 1122F125 5.?.3. '! he en" of he annaiic perio"$ he Samarians were
reae" as non<Jews.

-$plore the Scholars Study #Dating of the Samaritan Temple on /t. 0eri,im% in Bible
History Daily.

This )iew is enshrine" in he pos<Talmu"ic racae 6uim which simpl! appropriaes
laws re&ar"in& non<Jews an" applies hem o he Samarians$ subsiuin& he wor" (uti$
meanin& Samarian$ for goy$ non<Jew. #n fac$ (uti became pracicall! s!non!mous wih
non<Jew$ lea"in& o is use b! 5hrisian censors as a subsiue for goy in Hebrew prine"
#n he case of he Samarian schism$ cerainl! b! annaiic imes$ Jews woul" no marr!
Samarians$ since he! were of a "oubful saus. * some poin$ probabl! in he (i""le
*&es$ Samarians were forbi""en o marr! Jews. These wo &roups saw hemsel)es as
in"epen"en reli&ious communiies$ ac%nowle"&in& onl! heir hisorical connecions. The
rise of he mo"ern Sae of #srael has ameliorae" he social aspecs of his conflic$ bu
Jews are sill forbi""en o marr! Samarians. Some Samarians permi marria&e o Jewish
women$ bu his lenienc! came abou onl! recenl!$ since heir populaion shran% o a
"an&erousl! low number ha hreaene" heir sur)i)al. 5learl!$ Jews an" Samarians
separae" permanenl!$ an" he prohibiion of marria&e beween hese wo communiies
was a naural resul.

Sectarianism in the Second Temple Period
Schisms in Jewish History: Part 3
The ma=or secs of he Secon" Temple perio" firs appear in our sources in he afermah
of he (accabean Ee)ol 11A8F1A4 '.5.?.3. :e in ruh$ he process of Helleni;aion
be&an much earlier. The rise of he (accabees 1Hasmoneans3 was occasione" b! fermen
in Jewish reli&ious hou&h$ which le" o a crisis re&ar"in& he e9en an" he manner in
which he Jews were &oin& o accommo"ae hemsel)es o Hellenism. The (accabees
sele" maers onl! pariall!$ eliminain& e9reme Helleni;aion as a possibili!. :e heir
successful re)ol lef open a number of opions re&ar"in& Hellenism an" also brou&h o
he fore )arious oher issues in Jewish reli&ious hou&h an" in he "e)elopmen of Jewish
law. *s a resul$ reco&ni;able &roups$ %nown usuall! b! he somewha inaccurae erm
-secs$0 came o he fore. 4e will "iscuss here he ma=or &roups$ !e i shoul" be borne in
min" ha numerous smaller an" e)en un"ocumene" secs e9ise" in his perio". Durher$
mos of he Jewish populaion in 7alesine was onl! an&eniall! connece" o he issues
hese secs "ebae".
'es %nown amon& hese &roups are he 7harisees an" he Sa""ucees. The 7harisees
represene" a &roup of la! eachers of he Torah who$ alon& wih he Sa""ucees$ forme" a
coaliion in he gerousia 1-council of el"ers03 of he Hasmonean %in&s. The 7harisees
were lin%e" o he urban mi""le classes an" oo% heir name from heir life of separaion
from riual impuri! an" unihe" pro"uce. The Sa""ucees were name" for Ga"o%$ he
hi&h pries un"er Solomon$ an" were a priesl! &roup. The! were close o he arisocraic
families who ha" inermarrie" wih he hi&h priesl! families. 4hereas he 7harisees ha"
ra"iions which were passe" on from &eneraion o &eneraion$ he Sa""ucees claime"
auhori! onl! for he wrien e9 of he 'ible. Dor his reason$ he! ha)e ofen been
re&ar"e" as a lieralis sec. 'oh si"es claime" o possess he correc inerpreaion of he
Torah. The! "ispue" also re&ar"in& man! maers of Jewish law which emer&e" from he
inerpreaions he! espouse".

1ew Testament scholar "oland Deines the Biblical Pharisees were good guys
with bad press. &earn more in Bible History Daily.

Drom laer sources$ i appears ha he 7harisees an" Sa""ucees also "isa&ree" abou
fun"amenals of Jewish belief. The 7harisees belie)e" in he "i)ision of bo"! an" soul
an" resurrecion$ which he Sa""ucees re=ece". The 7harisees belie)e" in an&els an" he
Sa""ucees "i" no. The! ha" "ifferen )iews on he /uesion of free will. #n heir wa!s of
life$ he Sa""uceees li)e" a more Helleni;e" life$ whereas he 7harisees aempe" o
limi Hellenisic influence o wha is usuall! calle" maerial culure>such maers as
)ocabular!$ echnolo&! an" archiecure.
* he same ime$ oher Jews no in)ol)e" in he mainsream of Hasmonean poliics
or&ani;e" &roups of belie)ers. Josephus an" 7hilo "escribe a len&h he sec of he
?ssenes. (an! scholars ha)e i"enifie" he ?ssenes wih he sec ha lef is librar! in he
ca)es of Humran$ usuall! erme" he +ea" Sea or Humran sec. 7hilo an" Josephus$ as
well as he scrolls$ "escribe &roups which separae" from he "ominan ren"s of Ju"aism
of heir imes$ or&ani;in& ino smaller &roups "e)oe" o he aainmen an" preser)aion
of puri! an" holiness. These &roups ha" comple9 s!sems of a"mission an" penal co"es
for hose who )iolae" he re&ulaions. The! sresse" immersion an" pra!er alon&si"e he
su"! of he Torah. The! loo%e" forwar" o apocal!pic wars from which he! woul"
emer&e )icorious an" heir enemies$ he Jerusalem esablishmen$ "efeae".
The )arious &roups we ha)e sur)e!e" an" a number of a""iional secs )ie" wih one
anoher for he alle&iance of he Jewish populace in he las wo cenuries '.5.?. (uch
polemic an" e)en in)eci)e passe" beween he &roups. :e i is imporan o noe ha a
no ime "i" an! &roup asser he non<Jewishness or ille&iimac! of he saus of he
members of he oher &roups. Bo such issues were raise". Hence$ hese conro)ersies "i"
no lea" o he separaion of an!one from he Jewish people. Ilimael! he 7harisees
woul" pass heir ra"iions on o he annaim$ he eachers of he (ishnah$ an" he!
woul" be mol"e" ino Eabbinic Ju"aism. Boneheless$ he "ispues amon& he secs in
man! wa!s enriche" Ju"aism$ as can be seen from racin& he enr! of some of hese
i"eas ino he Talmu"ic ra"iion. :e in our hase o affirm he )ali"i! of Jewish
reli&ious pluralism$ we shoul" remember ha he ulimae resul of he heria&e of
"isuni! in Secon" Temple imes was he inabili! of he Jewish people o =oin o&eher in
he face of Eoman rule. Ha" a unifie" san" been a%en$ eiher o re)ol in full force or o
reach an accommo"aion wih he Eomans$ he &rea "isaser of he oal "esrucion of
he Temple$ Jerusalem an" Ju"ea in he course of he .rea Ee)ol mi&h ha)e been
The Jewish-Christian Schism
Schisms in Jewish History: Part
# was no lon&$ howe)er$ unil a "ifferen schism was o ha)e mar%e"l! "ifferen resuls.
*mon& he secs of he Secon" Temple perio"$ one of he ma=or conro)ersies concerne"
he (essianic i"ea. 4hereas man! Jews saw he (essianic a&e as comin& in he far<off
fuure$ ohers oo% a more apocal!pic )iew$ e9pecin& he en" of "a!s o emer&e )er!
soon ou of he sru&&les an" sufferin& of he presen a&e. Such en"encies ulimael!
helpe" o foser he con"iions necessar! for he rise of 5hrisiani!.
Eembran"$ *postle Paul
?arl! in he firs cenur! 5.?. here coalesce" aroun" Jesus a &roup of "isciples arace"
o his eachin&s an" o his e9pecaions of he "awn of a new a&e. His crucifi9ion a he
han"s of he Eomans ransforme" him in he e!es of his "isciples ino a (essianic fi&ure$
whose "eah in some wa! pa)e" he wa! for re"empion. *s such$ his followers$ sill
li)in& as Jews an" basicall! followin& he man"aes of Jewish law$ were "isin&uishe"
onl! b! heir belief ha he (essiah ha" come in he person of Jesus.
#n he afermah of he "esrucion$ he annaim aempe" o "raw Ju"aism o&eher
aroun" a common ra"iion. The! re&ar"e" 5hrisiani! as hereical$ an" bran"e" he
earl! 5hrisians as minim$ Jews hol"in& incorrec beliefs. *lhou&h he! re&ar"e" he
5hrisians as Jews$ since he! were Jews accor"in& o hala%hah$ he annaim oo% a sron&
san". The! e9clu"e" he 5hrisians from ser)in& as precenor in he s!na&o&ue$ hen
"eclare" heir scripural e9s o ha)e no sanci!$ e)en if he! conaine" he name of .o"$
hen prohibie" cerain forms of commercial an" social conac. :e hrou&hou his firs
perio"$ here was no challen&e o heir hala%hic saus as Jews an" no "ecree ha
prohibie" marria&e wih hem
*ll his was soon o chan&e as a resul of "e)elopmens which oo% place wihin he
nascen 5hrisian church. Someime in he mi"<firs cenur!$ he aposle 7aul reurne" o
Jerusalem from one of his =ourne!s abroa" wih a new concep. He ha" foun" &rea
ineres amon& &eniles in 5hrisiani!. This was especiall! he case since man! ha" come
ino conac alrea"! wih Jewish i"eas. :e as can be seen from he phenomenon of semi<
prosel!es here was subsanial hesiaion o formall! con)er o Ju"aism in he .reco<
Eoman worl". Dull con)ersion in)ol)e" he obser)ance of Jewish law$ inclu"in&
circumcision an" he "iear! laws. 7aul propose" o his fellow 5hrisians o ma%e i
possible o be a 5hrisian wihou firs becomin& a Jew. He himself woul" ha)e preferre"
he aban"onmen of he Law for all 5hrisians$ since he saw his as he naural resul of
he comin& of Jesus$ !e he proposal he ma"e was a compromise wih ohers more
aache" o Jewish pracices. Ilimael!$ 7aulJs approach was accepe" an" 5hrisiani!
was opene" o &enile belie)ers who sreame" ino he new faih$ /uic%l! sprea"in& i
hrou&hou he nei&hborin& counries.

2n the free eBook Pa!l: Jewish Law and "arly Christianity learn about the cultural
conte$ts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law e$tended into early
!hristianity through Pauls dual roles as a !hristian missionary and a Pharisee.

# was no lon& before he annaim reace" o he chan&e" naure of he 5hrisian
communi!. 4hereas he earlier annaim ha" face" Jews who belie)e" ha Jesus was he
(essiah$ he Eabbis now confrone" non<Jews 1from he hala%hic poin of )iew3 who
consiue" a separae reli&ious communi!. These were no minim$ Jews wih hereical
beliefs$ bu noserim$ 5hrisians. +urin& he 'ar 6o%hba Ee)ol$ he 5hrisians$ unable o
suppor he (essianic preensions of 'ar 6o%hba$ si"e" wih he Eomans. '! he en" of
he 'ar 6o%hba re)ol$ he Eabbis re&ar"e" he enire 5hrisian communi! as non<
Jewish. ?)en he 'ishop of Jerusalem was now &enile since Jews 1e)en Jewish
5hrisians3 were prohibie" from li)in& in he Hol! 5i!. # no lon&er maere" ha a few
of he 5hrisians were echnicall! Jewish. The lac% of Jewish saus of he &roup as a
whole le" he Eabbis o "is/ualif! hem as a whole. Henceforh$ from he Eabbinic
perspeci)e$ he 5hrisians were a separae reli&ion an" a separae people. (arria&e wih
hem was now prohibie".
# is also possible o follow his process of separaion from he perspeci)es of he
Eomans an" he 5hrisians. The Eomans were ousi"ers who conclu"e" ha he schism
was permanen a he en" of he firs cenur! an"$ accor"in&l!$ be&an o re&ar" he
5hrisians as a separae reli&ious communi!$ e9cuse" from pa!in& he fiscus Ju"aicus$
he Jewish poll a9.

&earn more about the fiscus Judaicus in #"oman -mperor "eform of the Jewish
Ta$% by 1athan T. -l(ins in Bible History Daily.

#n he case of he 5hrisian sources$ he maer is somewha more comple9. 4e can race
he schism in he Bew Tesamen iself. #n he earlies accouns in he .ospels$ he
5hrisians see heir enemies as he 7harisees. *fer all$ he! hemsel)es are Jews. '! he
ime we &e o he .ospel of John$ he Jews as a whole are i"enifie" as he opponens of
Jesus. 5learl!$ b! he ime he laer boo%s of he Bew esamen were auhore"$ his
schism ha" become complee from he 5hrisian poin of )iew. :e$ of course he
5hrisians saw hemsel)es as he rue #srael an" he Jews as ha)in& &one asra!.
*s we noe"$ from he poin of )iew of he Eabbis i was he aban"onmen of he
ra"iional "efiniions of who is a Jew ha le" o he complee separaion of 5hrisiani!
from Ju"aism. Theolo&ical "ifferences woul" no ha)e been enou&h. The e)enual resul
of his separaion was a lon& hisor! of hare" b! he "au&her for he moher who ha"
be&oen her an" cenuries of sufferin& for he Jewish people. :e he Eabbis soo" firm.
The 5hrisians were no Jews accor"in& o hala%hah$ an" marria&e wih hem was
forbi""enK he! ha" lef he Jewish people.