Why the Talmud Rejected the Greek View of Divine Law https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/religion-holidays/2015/11/why-the-talmud-rejected-the-greek-view-of-divine-law/

November 12, 2015 | Benjamin Silver
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In What’s Divine about Divine Law?, Christine Hayes explores the talmudic sages’ understanding of the divinity of halakhah, and emphasizes the differences between their approach and that of Greek and Roman thinkers who made a clear distinction between divine law, which is made evident by nature, and human law. Benjamin Silver writes in his review:

[T]he rabbis of the Talmud were, like Paul, Philo, and numerous other Jews of the time, . . . responding to the Hellenistic dichotomy of human and divine law. Hayes brings down a mountain of evidence—from the Palestinian Talmud, from the Babylonian Talmud, from early and late midrashic works, and from the Qumran texts (popularly known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls”)—to demonstrate that the sages of the Talmud were well aware of the Hellenistic view, that they considered it seriously, and that they found it lacking.

The result is a law that was authored by God and yet remains, in certain respects, flexible, particular to the Jewish community, irrational, and, interestingly, untrue (insofar as Jewish law does not always align with logical, metaphysical, or empirical “truth”). For the rabbis, these characteristics were not cause for concern; rather, they were precisely evidence of the law’s divinity. This is not a law that would fit into the legal typology provided by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa, or any other subsequent Western legal philosophy or theology. Though the contours of such a view are disorienting to thoroughly Greek-influenced readers like us, Hayes takes pains to trace those contours carefully and clearly.

Though it’s never stated explicitly, the most significant academic conclusion to be drawn from Hayes’s characterization of this intellectual history is that the sages of the Talmud, in contrast to Paul and Philo, were presenting a view of divine law more conceptually faithful to Hebrew Scripture precisely because they rejected a Hellenistic dichotomy which is alien to Scripture.

Read more on First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/if-the-law-isnt-in-heaven-where-is-it