JUDAIC 417 - Topics in Judaic Studies
Section: 002 Letter and Spirit: Law, Intepretation and Identity in Early Judaism and Christianity
Term: FA 2007
Subject: Judaic Studies (JUDAIC)
Department: LSA Judaic Studies
May be elected three times for credit.
Rackham Information:
Rackham credit requires additional work.
Primary Instructor:

"But now we are delivered from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:6)

The New Testament is replete with narratives that pit Jesus against a group of Jews called the Pharisees over questions of interpretation of Biblical law. As construed in later Christian writings, sources such as Paul?s letters seem to oppose the dead letter of law to the spirit. Many scholars have understood Judaism and Christianity in terms of this essential difference over law and spirit, which supposedly inaugurated a clear and early separation between the two religions. This story is being revised with the growing realization that the differentiation between Judaism and Christianity was a complex process that took place over a lengthy period of time — perhaps centuries — during which there existed variegated groups of Jews, Christians and Jewish-Christians that were not always distinguishable. Nevertheless, a key issue at stake was the interpretation and observance of biblical law.

With this ostensible debate as the backdrop, this course will examine sources on the early Jesus movement, developing Christianity and varieties of Judaism, and the emergence of the Church and of the Rabbinic movement, in texts such as the New Testament, the Mishnah, late antique Christian writings and the Talmud. We will consider such questions as:

  • to what extent was Christianity a Jewish movement?
  • To what extent can Jewish-Christian polemics be read as intra-Jewish arguments?
  • Did Christians reject the law?
  • Was anti-law polemic crucial to Christians?
  • What was the role of law in early Judaism(s) and in the Rabbinic movement?
By studying the creation of traditions and narratives, and the ways in which ancient Jews and Christians interpreted the Bible in the context of their own lives, we will witness and critique the way different hermeneutic, exegetical techniques and interpretative strategies were deployed to decide legal and ethical questions governing daily life, community structure, relations with the state, and relationships among groups.

JUDAIC 417 - Topics in Judaic Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
002 (SEM)
5Graduate Standing
Tu 6:00PM - 8:00PM
Note: Meets with History 498.001 and LAW 847 Undergrads may register for this class only with permission from the instructor.
003 (SEM)
M 3:00PM - 5:00PM
Note: Meets with POLSCI 497.001
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