Council of Jamnia
The Council of Jamnia or Council of Yavne is a hypothetical late 1st-century council at which the canon of the Hebrew Bible was alleged to have been finalized. First proposed by Heinrich Graetz in 1871, this theory was popular for much of the twentieth century. It was increasingly questioned from the 1960s onward, and is no longer considered plausible.
The Talmud relates that some time before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai relocated to the city of Yavne/Jamnia, where he received permission from the Romans to found a school of Halakha (Jewish law). Yavne was also the town where the Sanhedrin relocated after the destruction of the Temple. Zakkai's school became a major source for the later Mishna, which records the work of the Tannaim, and a wellspring of Rabbinic Judaism.
History of the theory 
In 1871 Heinrich Graetz, drawing on Mishnaic and Talmudic sources, theorized that there must have been a late 1st century Council of Jamnia which had decided the Jewish canon. This became the prevailing scholarly consensus for much of the 20th century. However, from the 1960s onwards, based on the work of Jack P. Lewis, Sidney Z. Leiman, and others, this view came increasingly into question. In particular, later scholars noted that none of the sources actually mentioned books that had been withdrawn from a canon, and questioned the whole premise that the discussions were about canonicity at all, asserting that they were actually dealing with other concerns entirely.
Jacob Neusner published books in 1987 and 1988 that argued that the notion of a biblical canon was not prominent in second-century Rabbinic Judaism or even later and instead that a "notion of Torah" was expanded to include the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, Babylonian Talmud and midrashim.
Jack P. Lewis wrote in The Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol. III, pp. 634–7 (New York 1992):
The concept of the Council of Jamnia is an hypothesis to explain the canonization of the Writings (the third division of the Hebrew Bible) resulting in the closing of the Hebrew canon. ... These ongoing debates suggest the paucity of evidence on which the hypothesis of the Council of Jamnia rests and raise the question whether it has not served its usefulness and should be relegated to the limbo of unestablished hypotheses. It should not be allowed to be considered a consensus established by mere repetition of assertion.
Albert C. Sundberg, Jr. has argued that the canon was likely decided between 70 and 135 C.E., and asked "what alternatives are there to Jamnia as the venue?" Other scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed earlier by the Hasmonean dynasty.
In general, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set, and Graetz's theory is no longer considered plausible.
Developments attributed to Jamnia 
While there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set, the outcomes attributed to the Council of Jamnia did occur whether gradually or in a definitive, authoritative council. Several concerns of the remaining Jewish communities in Israel would have been the loss of the national language, the growing problem of conversions to Christianity, based in part on Christian promises of life after death. What emerged from this era was twofold:
- A rejection of the Septuagint or Koine Greek Old Testament widely then in use in Hellenistic Judaism along with the books included in many manuscripts which were thought to not exist in Hebrew or Aramaic, or, alternatively, were considered to be written after the time of Ezra (although the Book of Daniel, included in the Jewish canon, was not written until 165 BC - 300 years after the death of Ezra - and several books that were excluded, such as Sirach and Tobit, have since been discovered in ancient manuscripts of the original Hebrew or Aramaic amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls, at Masada and in the Cairo Geniza, and others, such as 1 Maccabees, are considered by the unanimous consent of modern and many ancient scholars to have been authored in Hebrew - these books, included in Septuagint manuscripts but excluded in later Hebrew texts, are the deuterocanonical books of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy).
- The inclusion of a curse on the "Minim", which probably included Jewish Christians. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Min: "In passages referring to the Christian period, "minim" usually indicates the Judæo-Christians, the Gnostics, and the Nazarenes, who often conversed with the rabbis on the unity of God, creation, resurrection, and similar subjects (comp. Sanh. 39b). In some passages, indeed, it is used even for "Christian"; but it is possible that in such cases it is a substitution for the word "Noẓeri," which was the usual term for 'Christian'... On the invitation of Gamaliel II., Samuel ha-Ḳaṭan composed a prayer against the minim which was inserted in the "Eighteen Benedictions"; it is called "Birkat ha-Minim" and forms the twelfth benediction; but instead of the original "Noẓerim" ... the present text has "wela-malshinim" (="and to the informers"). The cause of this change in the text was probably, the accusation brought by the Church Fathers against the Jews of cursing all the Christians under the name of the Nazarenes." However this is disputed by the Talmud yerushalmi, which gives a different explanation for the 19th blessing.
Sociologically, these developments achieved two important ends, namely, the preservation of the Hebrew language at least for religious use (even among the diaspora) and possibly the final separation and distinction between the Jewish and Christian communities, though the separation is more complex than just a single event.
Some of the books not admitted into the Hebrew canon, such as the Wisdom of Solomon and 2 Maccabees (originally Greek compositions) gave the only textual support for the common first century Jewish belief in the after-life. The martyrs' prayers for the dead and the living praying and offering sacrifices for the dead motivated Martin Luther to reject these books as apocryphal.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Talmud Gittin 56a-b, p.95, Kantor
- Graetz, Heinrich (1871). "Der alttestamentliche Kanon und sein Abschluss (The Old Testament Canon and its finalisation)". Kohélet, oder der Salomonische Prediger (Kohélet, or Ecclesiastes) (in German). Leipzig: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung. pp. 147–173.
- McDonald & Sanders, The Canon Debate, 2002, page 5, cited are Neusner's Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine, pp. 128-145, and Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism, pp. 1-22.
- "The Old Testament of the Early Church" Revisited 1997
- Philip R. Davies in The Canon Debate, page 50: "With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty."
- Birkat ha-Minim
- Buckner B. Trawick, The Bible As Literature, 1963, pp. 160, 354
- Kantor, Mattis, The Jewish timeline encyclopaedia: a year-by-year history from Creation to the present day, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale N.J., 1992
- Robert C. Newman, 'The Council of Jamnia and the Old Testament Canon' (1983), an in-depth discussion of the subject on the site of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute.
- Bob Stanley, 'The Deuterocanonicals' (2002), an interpretation of "The Council of Jamnia" presented on the website of The Catholic Treasure Chest.
- Jamina or ( Jabneh ) @ JewishEncyclopedia.com
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Academy of Jabneh
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Birkat ha-Minim
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Min
- "The Old Testament of the Early Church" Revisited, Albert C. Sundberg, Jr., 1997