Events: 2020-2021

Writing the Oral Torah in Islamic Terms


Date: Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Time: 07:00pm

3 Session Mini-Course

Tuesdays: October 13, 20, 27, 2020

Taught by Marc Herman, Aresty Visiting Scholar

This mini-course explores the ways that medieval Jews used ideas first found in Islamic legal theory to help them rethink their tradition and, ultimately, to reconstitute Judaism in new terms. Two major personalities bookend this story: Saadia Gaon (882-942) and Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). Both luminaries of the medieval Judeo-Arabic world, these figures represented and defended the competing centers of medieval Jewish life in the Islamic world of Iraq and Spain.

Despite the centrality of the Oral Torah in rabbinic literature, the Rabbis of the Talmudic period offered only scattered methodological comments about the nature of their scriptural interpretation and extra-scriptural traditions. Medieval Talmudists in the Islamic world took up the task of systematizing and theorizing rabbinic Judaism from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. They did so both to lend coherence to their religious law and to respond to criticisms of rabbinic Judaism leveled by both Jews and non-Jews.


Oct. 13: Dual Revelation in Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Judaism and Early Islam
Oct. 20: The Karaite-Rabbanite Debate in Light of Eastern Islamic Legal Theory
Oct. 27: Sephardic Interpretive Independence and the Quest for a new Approach to the Oral Torah

Advance registration required. Registration has closed.

This event will be held virtually. Link to the webinar will be emailed to those who register prior to the registration closing along with required reading materials.

Marc HermanMarc D. Herman, the Aresty Visiting Scholar for the fall 2020 semester, earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania and has held post-doctoral research fellowships at Columbia University, Fordham University, the University of Michigan’s Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies, and Yale Law School’s Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilizations. His research explores the ways in which medieval Jews deployed Islamic legal theory when writing about the Oral Torah, and his articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Jewish Quarterly Review, Journal of the American Oriental Society, and Association for Jewish Studies Review. He is coeditor of a forthcoming volume, Accounting for the Commandments in Medieval Judaism: Studies in Law, Philosophy, Pietism, and Kabbalah, and he is currently writing his first monograph, Imagining Revelation: Medieval Jewish Presentations of the Oral Torah in an Islamic Key, for the Jewish Culture and Contexts series of the University of Pennsylvania Press. At Rutgers, he will teach a mini-course, deliver a faculty seminar, and participate in the community outreach activities of the Bildner Center.