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Divine Law in the Container Store

Ancient Jew Review has posted Beth Berkowitz’s comments from a recent SBL session on Christine Hayes’s What’s Divine about Divine Law?: Early Perspectives.

From Divine Law in the Container Store.

But the story that Hayes is telling is really more about the rabbis, who take a very interesting approach to the problem. Whereas Philo makes Mosaic law look a whole lot like Greek divine law, and Jubilees makes Greek divine law look a whole lot like Mosaic law, and Paul invests in keeping them separate, the Rabbis argue with the assumptions on which the entire conversation is based. Who says that something being temporary, particular, changing and sometimes irrational makes it human? Maybe we need to rethink what it means for law to be divine in the first place. They go so far as to say that these attributes of particularity and irrationality, so constantly denigrated in the Hellenistic world, are actually virtues. It’s like when you say you love someone despite their faults, versus saying you love someone because of their faults; the rabbis are the “because-of” types. The rabbis see the flaws as endearing, as distinctive, as making the Torah far more interesting. But it’s not like they didn’t know how everyone else looked at it; they knew everyone else considered these attributes flaws, and as disqualifying the law from any sparks of divinity. They realized how ridiculous their position seemed.

2 Responses to “Divine Law in the Container Store”

  1. 1
    Harry Perkal:

    Excuse me but I thought that the Enlightenment and Modernity destroyed the idea of divine law -whether it came from the Ancient Greeks or Ancient Israel. It is as absurd as the Divine Right of Kings.

  2. 2
    Shoshana Zucker:

    I wish Berkowitz had shared the map of Hayes’ arguments. I’ve been having trouble keeping track of all the numbered theories of law. Fortunately, I’m not reading the book for a course.




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