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Is Talmudic Law a Religious Legal System? A Provisional Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2015


The claim that talmudic law is a religious legal system has long been, and continues to be, put forward by both traditional scholars of Jewish law and contemporary academic researchers.

The question of whether talmudic law is a religious legal system most certainly did not engage the Sages of the Talmud, but addressing it will help us grasp the nature of talmudic law. Furthermore, juxtaposing talmudic law to Biblical law will help us delineate the concept of religious law, and shed light on certain developments in the evolution of Jewish law.

Let us consider what this claim entails. Sometimes the assertion that a given legal system is a religious legal system merely seeks to indicate that it is part of a certain religion or was created within the framework of that religion. Such an assertion does not provide any information about the nature of the said system, just as the phrase “French law” says nothing more than that the system is used in France.

Copyright © Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University 2008

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25. mMakot 3:15; bMakot 13b.

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