Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam

By Jacob Neusner; Tamara Sonn | Go to book overview

5

THE WORKING OF THE LAW

Personnel

A


Bases of authority

What preparation are judges to have, what qualities of mind and character are they to possess, in order to undertake to administer the affairs of the community in Judaism and Islam? Clearly, both religious legal systems require faith and intellect, and neither can take the one without the other. These gifts of the soul and scholarly training constitute another mode of validation of the authority of the law: for Judaism, intellectual and charismatic; for Islam, intellectual. The definition of the requirements for legal scholars and judges in Islam, and the disciple of sages (talmid hakhamim), who bears the honorific title “rabbi” in Judaism, completes the account of how the law works in the two religions. Once more we see how the law serves as the medium of the theological system and religious convictions of each of them, and how levels of literacy distinguish the two systems. As noted in Chapter 2, recent studies have identified key differences between oral and literate cultures. In our discussion of modes of reasoning, the tendency for oral cultures to reason anecdotally (by precedent), and for literate cultures to reason logically (by syllogism) was indicated. Another characteristic distinction between orality and literacy will become evident in this chapter. Oral cultures tend to place authority in persons; something is true because the person we recognize as authoritative said it. In literate cultures the process is reversed: we recognize as an authority someone who says something we believe is true based on other sources, primarily text and logic. Since Judaism lays heavy emphasis upon formulation and transmission through memory of the oral part of the Torah, gifts of the spirit are to be anticipated; since Islam rests upon a wholly written tradition, we should find heavier emphasis upon intellectual ability. The formal difference then turns into an expression of a deeper theological disagreement on how human beings know God’s will in words.

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Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Comparing Islam and Judaism in Particular 1
  • 2 - The Authoritative Legal Documents of Judaism and Islam 18
  • 3 - The Intellectual Sources of the Law 61
  • 4 - The Working of the Law 103
  • 5 - The Working of the Law 127
  • 6 - Disproportions 153
  • 7 - Unique Categories 191
  • 8 - Epilogue 240
  • Notes 253
  • Index 261
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