Departmental Papers (Religious Studies)

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Book Chapter

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Public and Private in Ancient Mediterranean Law and Religion

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A great deal of ink has been spilled on the question of early rabbinic literary culture and the rabbinic dedication to the development of an explicitly oral legal tradition. In this essay I will argue that given that the manifest content of early rabbinic discourse is law, it is productive to look to the very public practices of communication inscribed, literally and figuratively, in the Roman legal culture of the east. Within this context, the rabbinic legal project makes sense as a form of provincial shadowing of a dominant Roman legal culture. This paper will explore the paradoxical rabbinic deployment of the most public of Roman genres, law, in a manner explicitly coded as private. How does one make sense of the public aspirations of rabbinic law with its choice to remain unwritten and therefore largely invisible in the imperial landscape of the rabbinic city?

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This book was originally published by De Gruyter. Book chapter available at


Ancient Judaism, Ancient Christianity, Islam, Public, Private



Date Posted: 08 September 2017