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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

New Testament Developments

The post-exilic era saw the development of close and detailed study of the written law (Neh. 8). It seems likely that some unrecorded legal principles were passed on by word of mouth, and that traditions of interpretation expanding the scope of the written text also developed. By the New Testament era there were different schools of thought among the Jews as to the value of this oral law. The Sadducees and the Essenes rejected these traditions, but the Pharisees valued them highly. Indeed, this was a point of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees (Mark 7: 1–13). But these Pharisaic traditions were eventually enshrined in the Mishnah (c.200 CE) and the Talmud (c.500 CE), and became central to normative Judaism.

In the NT church there were great disputes about the ongoing applicability of the OT law to Gentile converts. These disputes came to a head at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), where a compromise was reached specifying what was mandatory for Gentile Christians (Acts 15: 28–9), though it seems likely that Jewish Christians were still expected to fulfil the law (Acts 16: 3; 21: 19–26). The issue of the law is discussed at length in the epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans. (For further discussion see Chapter 39.)

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