In certain generations the sages warned against excessive study of the Bible in itself, just as they warned against the study of philosophy (even Jewish philosophy) or feared unsupervised study of Kabbalah.
In all these spheres they insisted that before a student plumbed their depths, "he [should] fill his belly with Talmud and codifiers."
This basic grounding enables him to study other areas later without being lured aside by various partialities or deviant views.
And since the Talmud is of such fundamental importance for the Jewish people, extensively studied by every Jewish scholar, it is evident that not only was it created by the Jewish people, but later, in turn, molded the people.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Essential Talmud, Chapter 36 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz