When we make an inventory of the topics addressed in Rabbinic stories, we see that the Rabbis discussed a large number of events connected with the Jewish past during the ancient period. They knew about the revelation to John Hyrcanus of the victory of his sons, of the circumstances under which power passed to the Pharisees on the death of Alexander Jannaeus and the accession of Salome Alexandra, of the siege of Jerusalem during the civil war between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, of the dispute concerning the laying on of hands on a sacrifice, of the rise of Hillel and his school, of the outbreak of the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple, of the meeting of the Roman commanders on the eve of the destruction of the Temple, of the Diaspora Revolt, of the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt, of the challenge of the Akibans to the family of the Patriarch, and of the good relations which prevailed between the Jews and the Empire in the Severan period. These were virtually all, admittedly, major events discussed in isolation and not as part of a historical continuum; explanation of these events, as we would expect on the basis of the discussion above, was in interpersonal terms. Nevertheless, the Rabbinic record must also be set in the context of the evidence considered in the first section of this paper. By those standards, it was a respectable achievement, thus confirming the conclusion above that even if these stories were not history they are worthy of a historian’s attention.
Albert I. Baumgarten, “Rabbinic Literature as a Source for the History of Jewish Sectarianism in the Second Temple”, Dead Sea Discoveries, Vol. 2, No. 1 (April 1995), 35-36.