What's Divine about Divine Law?: Early Perspectives

Princeton University Press
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In the thousand years before the rise of Islam, two radically diverse conceptions of what it means to say that a law is divine confronted one another with a force that reverberates to the present. What's Divine about Divine Law? untangles the classical and biblical roots of the Western idea of divine law and shows how early adherents to biblical tradition—Hellenistic Jewish writers such as Philo, the community at Qumran, Paul, and the talmudic rabbis—struggled to make sense of this conflicting legacy.

Christine Hayes shows that for the ancient Greeks, divine law was divine by virtue of its inherent qualities of intrinsic rationality, truth, universality, and immutability, while for the biblical authors, divine law was divine because it was grounded in revelation with no presumption of rationality, conformity to truth, universality, or immutability. Hayes describes the collision of these opposing conceptions in the Hellenistic period, and details competing attempts to resolve the resulting cognitive dissonance. She shows how Second Temple and Hellenistic Jewish writers, from the author of 1 Enoch to Philo of Alexandria, were engaged in a common project of bridging the gulf between classical and biblical notions of divine law, while Paul, in his letters to the early Christian church, sought to widen it. Hayes then delves into the literature of classical rabbinic Judaism to reveal how the talmudic rabbis took a third and scandalous path, insisting on a construction of divine law intentionally at odds with the Greco-Roman and Pauline conceptions that would come to dominate the Christianized West.

A stunning achievement in intellectual history, What's Divine about Divine Law? sheds critical light on an ancient debate that would shape foundational Western thought, and that continues to inform contemporary views about the nature and purpose of law and the nature and authority of Scripture.

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About the author

Christine Hayes is the Robert F. and Patricia R. Weis Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica at Yale University. Her books include Introduction to the Bible, The Emergence of Judaism: Classical Traditions in Contemporary Perspective, and Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 28, 2015
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Pages
432
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ISBN
9781400866410
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / General
History / Social History
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
Philosophy / Religious
Religion / Ancient
Religion / Biblical Studies / General
Religion / Judaism / History
Religion / Judaism / Talmud
Religion / Philosophy
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Jesus as Philosopher: The Philosophical Sage in the Synoptic Gospels examines the possible ways in which the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, were inspired by contemporary philosophical traditions about the ideal philosophical sage in their description of their ideal human being, Jesus Christ. Runar M. Thorsteinsson considers the following questions: How does the author in question speak of Jesus in relation to contemporary philosophy? Do we see Jesus take on a certain 'philosophical' role in the Gospels, either by his statements and reasoning or his way of life? In what way are Jesus' words and actions analogous to that of leading philosophical figures in Graeco-Roman antiquity, according to these texts? Conversely, in what way do his words and actions differ from theirs? While Thorsteinsson discusses a number of Graeco-Roman sources, the emphasis is on the question of how these parallel texts help us better to understand the Gospel authors' perception and presentation of the character of Jesus. While the fields of theology and ethics are often intertwined in these texts, including the philosophical texts, Thorsteinsson's main focus is the ethical aspect. He argues that the Gospel authors drew in some ways on classical virtue ethics. The study concludes that the Gospel authors inherited stories and sayings of Jesus that they wanted to improve upon and recount as truthfully as possible, and they did so in part by making use of philosophical traditions about the ideal sage, especially that of Stoicism and Cynicism.
This lively and accessible introduction to Plato focuses on the philosophy and argument of his writings, drawing the reader into Plato's way of doing philosophy, and the general themes of his thinking. This is not a book to leave the reader standing in the outer court of introduction and background information, but leads directly into Plato's argument. It looks at Plato as a thinker grappling with philosophical problems in a variety of ways, rather than a philosopher with a fully worked-out system. It includes a brief account of Plato's life and the various interpretations that have been drawn from the sparse remains of information. It stresses the importance of the founding of the Academy and the conception of philosophy as a subject. Julia Annas discusses Plato's style of writing: his use of the dialogue form, his use of what we today call fiction, and his philosophical transformation of myths. She also looks at his discussions of love and philosophy, his attitude to women, and to homosexual love, explores Plato's claim that virtue is sufficient for happiness, and touches on his arguments for the immortality of the soul and his ideas about the nature of the universe. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
This volume brings together a set of classic essays on early rabbinic history and culture, seven of which have been translated into English especially for this publication. The studies are presented in three sections according to theme: (1) sources, methods and meaning; (2) tradition and self-invention; and (3) rabbinic contexts. The first section contains essays that made a pioneering contribution to the identification of sources for the historical and cultural study of the rabbinic period, articulated methodologies for the study of rabbinic history and culture, or addressed historical topics that continue to engage scholars to the present day. The second section contains pioneering contributions to our understanding of the culture of the sages whose sources we deploy for the purposes of historical reconstruction, contributions which grappled with the riddle and rhythm of the rabbis’ emergence to authority, or pierced the veil of their self-presentation. The essays in the third section made contributions of fundamental importance to our understanding of the broader cultural contexts of rabbinic sources, identified patterns of rabbinic participation in prevailing cultural systems, or sought to define with greater precision the social location of the rabbinic class within Jewish society of late antiquity. The volume is introduced by a new essay from the editor, summarizing the field and contextualizing the reprinted papers.

About the series

Classic Essays in Jewish History

(Series Editor: Kenneth Stow)

The 6000 year history of the Jewish peoples, their faith and their culture is a subject of enormous importance, not only to the rapidly growing body of students of Jewish studies itself, but also to those working in the fields of Byzantine, eastern Christian, Islamic, Mediterranean and European history. Classic Essays in Jewish History is a library reference collection that makes available the most important articles and research papers on the development of Jewish communities across Europe and the Middle East. By reprinting together in chronologically-themed volumes material from a widespread range of sources, many difficult to access, especially those drawn from sources that may never be digitized, this series constitutes a major new resource for libraries and scholars. The articles are selected not only for their current role in breaking new ground, but also for their place as seminal contributions to the formation of the field, and their utility in providing access to the subject for students and specialists in other fields. A number of articles not previously published in English will be specially translated for this series. Classic Essays in Jewish History provides comprehensive coverage of its subject. Each volume in the series focuses on a particular time-period and is edited by an authority on that field. The collection is planned to consist of 10 thematically ordered volumes, each containing a specially-written introduction to the subject, a bibliographical guide, and an index. All volumes are hardcover and printed on acid-free paper, to suit library needs. Subjects covered include:

The Biblical Period The Second Temple Period

The Development of Jewish Culture in Spain

Jewish Communities in Medieval Central Europe

Jews in Medieval England and France

Jews in Renaissance Europe

Jews in Early Modern Europe

Jews under Medieval Islam

Jews in the Ottoman Empire and North Africa

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