From the time of the Israelite monarchy to the early rabbis, Judaism had been transformed from a cultic religion centring on sacrificial practices to a religion of the book. The reading, study, and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible had replaced the Temple as the central focus of the religion. Differences persisted in terms of the language, method, sophistication, and genre in the interpretations. Nevertheless, they all shared the basic goal of providing new understandings to ancient texts. As these understandings evolved, so did the nature of Judaism. Jews drew from their own religious and cultural experiences in the process of interpretation, and in turn the interpretations helped to foster developments in Jewish thought and practice. The history of the Hebrew Bible in the Second Temple and early rabbinic periods reflects an attempt to make the laws and legends of Scripture more applicable to the society of those times. In so doing, Jews were able to keep the text of the Bible as a living and valuable tradition and from not becoming authoritative by itself.

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