<p>Abstract:</p><p>In contrast to prevalent tendencies, this essay argues that rabbinic law is not merely scholastic but reflects an active engagement with Roman legal institutions, thus setting the rabbis alongside other provincials in the imperial legal landscape. Rabbinic unilateral divorce procedure is fundamentally at odds with the egalitarian divorce of classical Roman law. Despite this difference I argue that, following early rabbinic traditions, the Mishnah shaped the procedure in accordance with Roman legal principles and subsequently addressed issues that concerned Roman jurists and were characteristic of their system. As in Roman practice, the Mishnah demands that actual separation precede the writing of a <i>repudium</i>, and in clear tension with the principles of the rabbinic system, the School of Hillel rule that this document is retroactively annulled if the couple happen to lodge together. The rabbis thus sought to shape the bill of divorce as a testimony to the reality of complete separation rather than as the machinery effecting separation, making it in reality similar to the practice surrounding them. The essay further argues that this cultural-legal integration later provided the necessary grounds for employing the power of Roman jurisdiction in order to execute local Jewish law, in a characteristic provincial manner.</p>
Jewish Quarterly Review – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Oct 23, 2019
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