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What's Divine about Divine Law?Early Perspectives$
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Christine Hayes

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691165196

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691165196.001.0001

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The (Ir)rationality of Torah

The (Ir)rationality of Torah

(p.246) Chapter 6 The (Ir)rationality of Torah
What's Divine about Divine Law?

Christine Hayes

Princeton University Press

This chapter continues to explore the rabbinic conception of Mosaic Law in an attempt to discern the extent to which and the manner in which that conception may have been informed by Greco-Roman discourses of natural law and positive law. Because the primary discourses of natural law in the Greco-Roman tradition underscore the rational character of the law, it takes up the question of the rationality of the Mosaic Law as represented by the rabbis. The chapter examines rabbinic sources that shed light on a constellation of questions that address the matter of the Law's essential rationality: Is the Law depicted as rational in the sense that it is not arbitrary and contains no contradiction or absurdity, no illogical or paradoxical claim, or does it defy logic and natural reason? Is it depicted as possessing intrinsic rationales or only an extrinsic utility of some kind? Is the Mosaic Law represented as rationally accessible or inaccessible? And does it derive its authority from its rational character or from a coercive sovereign will?

Keywords:   divine law, rabbinic texts, Mosaic Law, Greco-Roman discourses, natural law, positive law

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