HUMS 092, Divine Law in Historical Perspective

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9-10:15
Fall 2021

Course Description:

Exploration of the divergent notions of divine law in Greco-Roman antiquity and biblical Israel; the cognitive dissonance their historical encounter engendered and attempts by Jewish, Christian, and contemporary secular thinkers to negotiate competing claims. Topics include: debates over the attributes and nature of divine law versus human law; the grounds of divine law’s authority; law as a religious expression versus law as debasement of the divine-human relationship; the impact of divine law debates on secular legal theory.

Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.


Led By:

Christine Hayes's picture

Professor Christine Hayes

Christine Hayes is Robert F. and Patricia R. Weis Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1996, she was Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University for three years. Her published works include several books and many articles in Vetus TestamentumThe Journal for the Study of JudaismThe Harvard Theological Review, and various scholarly anthologies.

Hayes’s most recent book, What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives, received the 2015 National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship, a 2016 PROSE award for best book in Theology and Religious Studies from the American Publishers Association, and the 2016 Jordan Schnitzer Award from the Association of Jewish Studies.  Her other scholarly monographs are Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds (recipient of the 1997 Salo Baron prize for a first book in Jewish thought and literature) and Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (a 2003 National Jewish Book Award finalist). She has authored two introductory volumes (The Emergence of Judaism [2010] and Introduction to the Bible [2012]). Edited works include Jewish Law and its Interactions with other Legal Systems (2014) and a Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law (2017) as well as forthcoming volumes on rabbinic culture and history.

Hayes is active in professional and academic organizations, serving for many years as an editor of the Encyclopedia for the Bible and its Reception (EBR) and for 4 years as co-editor of the Association for Jewish Studies Review. She is the current Vice President for Program for the Association of Jewish Studies.

At Yale, Hayes offers undergraduate courses on the literature and history of the biblical and talmudic periods (including “Introduction to the Bible” which can be viewed on line at as well as advanced text courses and graduate-only seminars. In 2005, Hayes was awarded the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. She has served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Religious Studies as well as for the Program in Judaic Studies. Recent university service includes the Committee on Yale College Education and the Committee on Majors, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies (2011-2015) and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Religious Studies (current).