Joel Kaminsky on whether the Book of Job sweeps away a mechanistic concept of divine retribution

Professor Joel S. Kaminsky (Smith College) delivered the 2015 Albert and Vera List Fund for Jewish Studies Lecture at Harvard Divinity School on February 18, 2015, “Would You Impugn My Justice?”

Much recent scholarship has portrayed the book of Job as sweeping away an earlier, supposedly mechanistic theology of divine reward and punishment. Joel S. Kaminsky argues that the widespread biblical notion that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked is more complex than often recognized. Recovering its nuances not only helps one better understand the theological outlook of books like Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Psalms, but also helps one better grasp the debates within the book of Job.

00:00 Welcome by Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology, Harvard Divinity School

1:45 Introduction by Jon D. Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard Divinity School

3:55 Joel S. Kaminsky, Professor of Religion and Morningstar Family Professor in Jewish Studies, Smith College

39:30 Q&A with Joel S. Kaminsky

A version of the lecture was published as “Would You Impugn My Justice? A Nuanced Approach to the Hebrew Bible’s Theology of Divine Recompense” Interpretation 69.3 (2015): 299-310.

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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)