Christine Hayes on Divine Law in Greco-Roman, Christian, Hellenistic Jewish, and Rabbinic Conceptions

Professor Christine Hayes (Yale University) has delivered various lectures on her 2015 book, What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives (Yale University Press).

Christine Hayes shows that for the ancient Greeks, divine law was divine by virtue of its inherent qualities of intrinsic rationality, truth, universality, and immutability, while for the biblical authors, divine law was divine because it was grounded in revelation with no presumption of rationality, conformity to truth, universality, or immutability. Hayes describes the collision of these opposing conceptions in the Hellenistic period, and details competing attempts to resolve the resulting cognitive dissonance. She shows how Second Temple and Hellenistic Jewish writers, from the author of 1 Enoch to Philo of Alexandria, were engaged in a common project of bridging the gulf between classical and biblical notions of divine law, while Paul, in his letters to the early Christian church, sought to widen it. Hayes then delves into the literature of classical rabbinic Judaism to reveal how the talmudic rabbis took a third and scandalous path, insisting on a construction of divine law intentionally at odds with the Greco-Roman and Pauline conceptions that would come to dominate the Christianized West.

“The (Ir)rationality of Torah”, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, May 31, 2015

“Divine Law: A Tale of Two Concepts (and Three Responses)”, Albert and Vera List Fund for Jewish Studies Lecture, Harvard College, March 3, 2014

“Looking in the Mirror: Philo and the Rabbis on Divine Law and Truth”, Goldstein-Goren International Centre for Jewish Thought, Ben-Gurion University, January 9, 2015

“What is Divine about Divine Law”, Flegg Lecture 2015, February 11, 2015 (David Flatto respondent)

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