In anticipation of Chanukah, we had a discussion about the impact of the Chashmonayim dynasty on Judaism, and somebody presented an idea that although they did fight for the continuation of the Jewish Halachic heritage, they influenced Judaism greatly by adopting Greek core theological and learning practices, specifically learning "theoretical" Tarah in "Academy-style" schools, known as "Beit Midrash".

I thought of numerous Midrashim depicting Yaakov studying at Shem's B"M or Yehuda opening B"Ms in Egypt, but all those are but very late interpretations of Torah verses.

What empirical evidence (external sources, archeology), besides those late Midrashim, do we have in support of the claim that Batei Midrash existed prior to Chanukkah events?

  • Maybe Shemuel 1:19:20 – Double AA Dec 12 '19 at 20:51
  • @DoubleAA Does this question accept Pesukim as 'empirical evidence'? I'm understanding this question as asking for non-Jewish sources that support Jewish held beliefs. – Salmononius2 Dec 12 '19 at 21:27
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    @Salmon No idea. I've long ago given up assuming I can divine the peculiarities of this OPs idiolect. – Double AA Dec 12 '19 at 21:28
  • @Salmononius2 Surely, Psukim are fine, as long as they describe, not interpret. Torah is great, however with Nac"h I do sense a problem because it was written much much later and its historicity might be less reliable. – Al Berko Dec 12 '19 at 22:40
  • I don't see the necessity of your first paragraph to posing the question. Suggest you leave out the first para. – Avrohom Yitzchok Dec 16 '19 at 19:46

Melachim II 6:1-2:

וַיֹּאמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־הַנְּבִיאִ֖ים אֶל־אֱלִישָׁ֑ע הִנֵּֽה־נָ֣א הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֲנַ֜חְנוּ יֹשְׁבִ֥ים שָׁ֛ם לְפָנֶ֖יךָ צַ֥ר מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

The disciples of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we live under your direction is too cramped for us.

נֵֽלְכָה־נָּ֣א עַד־הַיַּרְדֵּ֗ן וְנִקְחָ֤ה מִשָּׁם֙ אִ֚ישׁ קוֹרָ֣ה אֶחָ֔ת וְנַעֲשֶׂה־לָּ֥נוּ שָׁ֛ם מָק֖וֹם לָשֶׁ֣בֶת שָׁ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֵֽכוּ׃

Let us go to the Jordan, and let us each get a log there and build quarters there for ourselves to live in.” “Do so,” he replied.

You might argue that they didn't learn in this, lihavdil, "academy" theoretical wisdom. But they were studying a much more important topic, how to become prophets, as the Rambam (Yisodei Hatorah 7:5) explains:

אֵלּוּ שֶׁהֵם מְבַקְּשִׁין לְהִתְנַבֵּא הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים בְּנֵי הַנְּבִיאִים.

They that seek the spirit of prophecy are called disciples of the prophets.

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  • THank you. I don't see anything that depicts a B"M. They definitely had a place to gather, but I see no mentioning of a structure. – Al Berko Dec 12 '19 at 22:34
  • So, why did they take beams? For a place for themselves to live that was not a house of study? – Mordechai Dec 14 '19 at 16:54
  • I understand your logic, they did gather in houses but that wasn't dedicated to studying. Also, it's a wrong way of "wishful" thinking - Avraham wore a Shtreiml - how could he not? They sat in B"M - how could they not? – Al Berko Dec 14 '19 at 17:05
  • I doubt that archeology could do better, so this is the closest you are likely to get. History is never certain. – Mordechai Dec 14 '19 at 20:26
  • Archeology could do better if there were any synagogues or B"ms at that time. THey dig thousands of structure none of which is B"M. As far as I know... – Al Berko Dec 14 '19 at 20:38

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