This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to explore the concept of divine law. More precisely, it labors to make sense of the explosive confrontation of radically diverse conceptions of divine law in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world in the thousand-year period prior to the rise of Islam. Divine law can be minimally defined as the idea that the norms that guide human actions are somehow rooted in the divine realm—a concept common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A robust notion of divine law—in which divinity applies in some manner to the law itself—first appears in ancient Greece and in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). The Greek and the biblical conceptions of the divine are radically different. To the extent that the two cultures conceived of the divine in radically different ways, their notions of divine law would also diverge dramatically, a fact with serious consequences for those who feel compelled to negotiate the claims of both traditions. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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