chapter  3
THE MISHNAH ON ITS OWN
The initial statement
Pages 41

The advent of the Mishnah marks the fruition of the third stage in the unfolding of Judaism. Commencing at its earliest layers of thought in Scripture itself and coming to closure at circa 200, the Mishnah stands beyond Scripture as the only free-standing document of Judaism and, after Scripture, the authoritative one. Itself the subject of commentaries-the Tosefta, circa 300, a collection of complementary and supplementary rules, and the two Talmuds, circa 400 and 600 respectively, to begin with-the Mishnah does not organize its ideas as a commentary to Scripture. In form a law code possessed of autonomy, in essence an exercise in applied reason and practical logic in the service of a philosophical system, the Mishnah marks the critical turning point. From the Mishnah, the lines of order and structure emerge. To the Mishnah, all later writings refer directly or implicitly.