The Mishnah (‘published’ around 180-200 AD) distorts history by talking about the Jewish Temple as if it’s still standing –
… in the world described by the Mishnah the Temple still exists and the laws that governed it are expressed in the present tense … the Mishnah itself ignores the events of the Roman occupation of the land of Israel.
Maybe other concurrent or later Jewish texts do too. I think it’s likely this influenced early Christian authors and the texts they produced.
It is only now that the veracity of such texts and their critics, such as Jacob Neusner, mentioned here, are being better unpacked, eg. –
The Mishnah’s ritual narratives are a series of texts of varying length – from one or two sentences to a whole tractate – embedded in the Mishnah’s continuous discourse that describe in vivid detail how rituals were performed in the Temple, in relation to the Temple, or in the court of law …
In the past, the Mishnah’s ritual narratives have been studied in one of two ways. Traditionally, they were treated as transparent historical accounts which provide the historian or the scholar of religion access to historical events and to rituals performed in the time of the Second Temple. Jacob Neusner took the opposite approach, arguing that the Temple-oriented ritual narratives (like all Temple material in the Mishnah) were pure fantasies created by rabbis of the Ushan generation (mid-second century CE), living after the destruction of the Temple. According to Neusner, the rabbis created a utopian fantasy in which the sacred center of Judaism, the Temple, continued to exist within the religious imagination of its authors. Both of these approaches, which are problematic in their extreme stances toward the narratives, took important steps in describing the ritual narratives as a collectivity.
In this dissertation I break with the earlier approaches and treat these narratives neither as transparent history nor as total fantasies, but as far more complicated and nuanced texts with characteristic narrative shape and thematics. My approach is informed by a multidisciplinary perspective incorporating insights from the study of the Mishnah, the study of narrative, and the study of ritual, and I build on recent scholarly work on the Mishnah, especially works on the historical context of the Mishnah and on the Mishnah’s narrative. Similarly, I build on the recent studies of Beth Berkowitz and Ishay Rosen Zvi, who treat individual narratives from a culture-critical perspective.
From The Ritual Narrative Genre in The Mishnah: the Invention of the Rabbinic Past in the Representation of Temple Ritual
, a Dissertation in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania by Naftali S. Cohn in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy 2008
From the abstract –
the rabbinic narration of past ritual can best be treated as collective memory. By remembering the [Temple] Court in a position of authority over temple ritual, the rabbis are imagining this past institution in the image of the legal-ritual role they are attempting to construct for themselves in their present. This memory of the Court…gives meaning to and orients the rabbinic present. And it makes a claim for rabbinic authority over ritual law and practice in post-temple times.