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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

There are two aspects to the question of the relation between biblical law and rabbinic halakhah: the historical one, which refers to the continuum between the two cultures, and the creative one, which refers to the conscious efforts of the rabbis to interpret the biblical text and to deduce halakhic details from it. This chapter deals primarily with the second aspect, and surveys the state of research of the literature of halakhic midrashim—focusing on their division into two tannaitic schools—as well as of the place of midrash in other rabbinic compilations, notably the Babylonian Talmud. Following this survey the chapter discusses several relevant historical questions, especially the question whether midrash is the true source of halakhah, or just a method to artificially link pre-existing halakhot to the biblical text. Based on the view that the nature of midrash is the impetus to extract from the biblical text answers to all halakhic questions which bother the reader, whether or not they are actually referred to in the text, the chapter suggests several arguments in favor of the former view. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the great historical question of the continuity between biblical law and rabbinic halakhah. The chapter proposes studying halakhah from a longue durée perspective, which will enable us to approach this question on an evidential basis, and sketches some of the methodologies and research developments needed to advance this goal.

Keywords: biblical law, halakhah, midrash, rabbinic literature

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