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The Authority of Law in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism

Tracing the Origins of Legal Obligation from Ezra to Qumran

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Jonathan Vroom

In The Authority of Law in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism, Vroom identifies a development in the authority of written law that took place in early Judaism. Ever since Assyriologists began to recognize that the Mesopotamian law collections did not function as law codes do today—as a source of binding obligation—scholars have grappled with the question of when the Pentateuchal legal corpora came to be treated as legally binding. Vroom draws from legal theory to provide a theoretical framework for understanding the nature of legal authority, and develops a methodology for identifying instances in which legal texts were treated as binding law by ancient interpreters. This method is applied to a selection of legal-interpretive texts: Ezra-Nehemiah, Temple Scroll, the Qumran rule texts, and the Samaritan Pentateuch.

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Paul D. Mandel

In The Origins of Midrash : From Teaching to Text, Paul Mandel presents a comprehensive study of the words darash and midrash from the Bible until the early rabbinic periods (3rd century CE). In contrast to current understandings in which the words are identified with modes of analysis of the biblical text, Mandel claims that they refer to instruction in law and not to an interpretation of text.
Mandel traces the use of these words as they are associated with the scribe ( sofer), the doresh ha-torah in the Dead Sea scrolls, the “exegetes of the laws” in the writings of Josephus and the rabbinic “sage” ( ḥakham), showing the development of the uses of midrash as a form of instruction throughout these periods.

Talmudic Transgressions

Engaging the Work of Daniel Boyarin

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Edited by Charlotte Fonrobert, Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Aharon Shemesh and Moulie Vidas

Talmudic Transgressions is a collection of essays on rabbinic literature and related fields in response to the boundary-pushing scholarship of Daniel Boyarin. This work is an attempt to transgress boundaries in various ways, since boundaries differentiate social identities, literary genres, legal practices, or diasporas and homelands. These essays locate the transgressive not outside the classical traditions but in these traditions themselves, having learned from Boyarin that it is often within the tradition and in its terms that we can find challenges to accepted notions of knowledge, text, and ethnic or gender identity. The sections of this volume attempt to mirror this diverse set of topics.


Contributors include Julia Watts Belser, Jonathan Boyarin, Shamma Boyarin, Virginia Burrus, Sergey Dolgopolski, Charlotte E. Fonrobert, Simon Goldhill, Erich S. Gruen, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Christine Hayes, Adi Ophir, James Redfield, Elchanan Reiner, Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Lena Salaymeh, Zvi Septimus, Aharon Shemesh, Dina Stein, Eliyahu Stern, Moulie Vidas, Barry Scott Wimpfheimer, Elliot R. Wolfson, Azzan Yadin-Israel, Israel Yuval, and Froma Zeitlin.

Empire, Power and Indigenous Elites

A Case Study of the Nehemiah Memoir

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Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley

Ancient Near Eastern empires, including Assyria, Babylon and Persia, frequently permitted local rulers to remain in power. The roles of the indigenous elites reflected in the Nehemiah Memoir can be compared to those encountered elsewhere. Nehemiah was an imperial appointee, likely of a military/administrative background, whose mission was to establish a birta in Jerusalem, thereby limiting the power of local elites. As a loyal servant of Persia, Nehemiah brought to his mission a certain amount of ethnic/cultic colouring seen in certain aspects of his activities in Jerusalem, in particular in his use of Mosaic authority (but not of specific Mosaic laws). Nehemiah appealed to ancient Jerusalemite traditions in order to eliminate opposition to him from powerful local elite networks.

The Ten Commandments

Interpreting the Bible in the Medieval World

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Lesley J. Smith

What did the ten commandments have to teach? Using the commentaries of a group of scholars from c. 1150-1350, such as Peter Lombard, Robert Grosseteste, and Bonaventure, along with confessors’ manuals, mystery plays and sermon material, this book investigates the place of the Decalogue in medieval thought. Beginning with the overarching themes of law and number, it moves to consider what sort of God is revealed in the commandments of the first stone tablet, and uncovers the structure that lay behind the precepts dealing with one’s neighbour. Interpreting the commandments allows us to look at issues of method and individuality in the medieval schools, and ask whether answers intended for the classroom could make an impression on the wider world.