The Talmudic Period was a time in Jewish history from around 400 AD to 500 BC in which the writings of the Talmud were the centerpiece to Jewish religion, life, and community. At the beginning of the Talmudic era, a collection of rabbinical writings known as the Talmud was assembled. The original and earliest version of the Talmud is known as the Jerusalem Talmud and it originated around 400 BC (Dorff). The Babylonian Talmud was a later, expanded version that included a significant amount of the older Talmudic material and was assembled around the fifth century AD.
The Talmud is a book of Jewish law considered the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law. In it, rabbis and teachers of the law discussed the Torah and the Law of God. In the writings of the Talmud, Jewish leaders applied God’s law to life and taught on its many subjects and statements.
The Talmud took God’s law(s) and words and helped the people to understand how it applied to specific situations within life. It has similarity to commentaries used in religious communities today but was significantly more authoritative because the people who contributed to the discussions and statements within the Talmud were religious leaders who held legal and religious authority concerning the people and the laws of God. They were considered to be called and appointed by God to teach and engage in Torah and other matters of Jewish law.
The Talmud (of the Talmudic Period/Era) also existed to bring consistency and cohesion to the Jewish people. The interpretations of God’s law and the application to life of the Torah was a matter that could fall victim to the opinion or guesses of the next generation and the Talmud existed as a stable source to refer to that overruled opinion and passing trends. It also served to assist judges in determining what constituted guilt and what proper punishment should be. Having a central document attempted to ensure fairness and consistency in terms of the legal treatment of the Jewish people.
This record of rabbinic teachings, commentary, and interpretation anchored the Jewish people to their God, their past, their traditions, their law, and their culture speaking to such areas of life as marriage, crime, punishment, money, diet, holidays, cleanliness, parenting, clothing, modesty, manners, hobbies, history, civil law, and, of course, religion.
The Talmud consists of what are known as the Gemara and the Mishnah. The Mishanh are the oral law of Judaism. A particular teaching within the Mishnah is called a midrash (or the plural being Midrashim). Judaism believes that Moses received the Torah (the Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) from God and that he wrote down what God said to him. They also believe that God gave Moses additional details and examples of how to interpret the Law that Moses did not write down. These unwritten explanations that were passed down verbally were/are known in Judaism as the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah was supposedly passed down from Moses to Joshua and then to the rabbis and that is the basis for the written Talmud. It’s application and importance in Jewish life started what is referred to as the Talmudic Period or Talmudic Era. The Talmud has been studied and applied by generation after generation of rabbis.
Another section of the Talmud is called the Aggadah (also spelled Haggadah). Aggadah are not considered law (halakha) but literature that consists of wisdom, teachings, stories, and parables. The Aggadah are sometimes used with halakha to teach a principle or make a legal point.
There are Aggadah in the Talmud that are prophetic about the Messiah. One example is the story of the White Ram that was said to be created by God and placed in the Garden of Eden. The story, based on Pirkei Avot 5 of the Talmud, has been told verbally over the ages. God commanded the White Ram to remain there until God called for him. When Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac, God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac and brought the White Ram to be his substitute. The White Ram, created before the foundations of the earth, was slain, and this Aggadah provides a picture of the Messiah as “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). The White Ram laid down his life for Isaac who symbolized a willing but unworthy humankind. What’s more, the ram’s two horns were made into shofars (trumpets). According to Aggadic tradition, one shofar sounded when God announced Himself to Moses (Exodus 19:19), and the other horn will sound at the second coming of Jesus (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Dorff, Elliot. “Judaism as a Religious Legal System.” The Hastings Law Journal Vol 29. Page 1334