chapter  6
Israel in history
Pages 42

The scriptural record of Israel, Pentateuchal and prophetic alike, took as its premise a single fact. When God wished to lay down a judgment, he did so through the medium of events, whether a burning bush, whether a lost battle. History, composed of singular events, therefore spoke God’s message. Prophets found vindication through their power to enunciate and even (in the case of Moses) to make, and change, history. Revealing God’s will, history moreover consisted of a line of one-time events, all of them heading in a single direction, a line that began at creation and will end with redemption or salvation. Had the Talmuds carried forward the Mishnah’s approach to history-its transformation of narrative into laws of the social order, its formation of events into classifications in groups and denial of the uniqueness of events-its stage of Judaism would have afforded no role to a principal voice of Israel’s Scriptures. But the period in which the Talmuds and related compilations of Scripture-exegeses took shape and reached closure, the fifth century and beyond, encompassed events that the Rabbinic sages could not have ignored had they wanted to.