The Talmud was written by men who made an effort to further explain what was found in the torah. It offers commentaries on biblical passages along with guidelines on how to live your life. In it are things which are listed as acceptable and unacceptable, which using stronger language is viewed as legal or illegal according to Mosaic Law. It offers commentaries on Jewish ethics, laws, history and customs. It also offers opinions on what is known as Judaism's Oral Law. Laws that were in theory, passed down through the generations to also offer explanations and directions concerning the written Mosaic Law.
Whenever someone had a question about Mosaic Law, they would take the question to the rabbis in charge and the rabbis opinion (ruling) would become law. There are different opinions offered by different rabbis concerning the same topics, so the talmud contradicts itself in some areas. Not all opinions could possibly be followed and the talmudic writings have been codified giving what is accepted by those who follow the talmud a legal guideline to work from.
Consider the passage written in the Talmud, where the rabbis believe themselves so wise that their wisdom has replaced the wisdom of divinely chosen prophets.
R. Abdimi from Haifa said: "Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise. Is then a wise man not also a prophet?" 12 — What he meant was this: Although it has been taken from the prophets, it has not been taken from the wise. Amemar said: A wise man is even superior to a prophet. (1)
The prevailing view of the Sages was that they had superseded and taken over the role of the prophet:
These Sages went on to write a considerable amount of Jewish literature including the Talmud, Mishna, Gemara, and other Jewish writings. Today in some branches of Orthodox Judaism, talmudic rulings can take precedence over the torah. This is one difference between biblical Judaism and rabbinical Judaism.
Raba made the following exposition: What is the purport of the Scriptural text: And, furthermore my son, be admonished: Of making many books etc.? My son, be more careful in [the observance of] the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah, for in the laws of the Torah there are positive and negative precepts; but, as to the laws of the Scribes, whoever transgresses any of the enactments of the Scribes incurs the penalty of death. In case you should object: If they are of real value why were they not recorded [in the Torah]? Scripture stated: ‘Of making many books there is no end’.(2)
Studying writings outside of the Old and New Testaments can serve an educational purpose. They are not a replacement for the original biblical text and should be viewed as man made commentaries. Sometimes, they offer additional insight. The true test is if these extra biblical writings are supported by the bible and not if the bible is supported by the extra biblical texts.
1). Mas. Baba Bathra 12a.
2). Eiruvin 21b (The Judaic Classics Library - The Soncino Talmud).