Rabbinic Civil Law in the Context of Ancient Legal History: A Legal Compendium to the Bavot Tractates of the Talmud Yerushalmi

Cooperative research project with Prof. Dr. Catherine Hezser, SOAS, University of London, UK, funded by the AHRC and the DFG.

The main objective of the project is to integrate Jewish civil law, as it developed in Roman Palestine in late antiquity (3rd-4th c. CE) and is codified in the Bavot tractates of the Talmud Yerushalmi, within ancient legal history. Scholars of ancient legal history generally deal with Roman law as the basis of modern European law, whereas rabbinic law is studied in the context of Jewish Studies. Ancient rabbis were legal adjudicators who devised rules and precedents in areas of civil law that have analogies in non-Jewish legal traditions, especially Hellenistic and Roman law. Compiled in the Bavot tractates of the Talmud, rabbinic civil law constitutes a significant Near Middle Eastern corpus of ancient civil law. The analysis and comparison of rabbinic with (mostly Egyptian) Hellenistic and with Roman civil law will enable us to overcome the inappropriate division between Jewish and non-Jewish, eastern and western legal traditions and enable an integrated approach to ancient law. The project examines the impact of Roman law on the eastern provinces in the context of Roman imperialism and the development of a legal hybridity in local Near Middle Eastern societies.

German project team, funded by the DFG:
research assistant: Ref. iur. Lisa Nardone
student assistant: cand. iur. Katharina Harder
Former team members
student assistant: cand. iur. Laura Anne Gold (September 2023 - March 2024)
acting professor: PD Dr. Thomas Pierson, M.A. (December 2023 - February 2024)
acting professor: Dr. Carsten Schirrmacher (October 2023 - December 2023)

News and Events

  • Project Presentation at HRP research seminar, London, 5 June 2024

    On 5 June 2024, Professors Catherine Hezser and Constantin Willems (who joined the meeting via video link) presented their collaborative project in the ambit of the research seminar of the School of History, Religions and Philosophies at SOAS, University of London. After a short overview of the project, a case study was presented and discussed with the participants.

  • Project Presentation at Jour Fixe of GRK 2844, Marburg, 30 April 2024

    On 30 April 2024, Professors Constantin Willems and Catherine Hezser (who joined the meeting via video link) presented their collaborative project to the members of the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg "Inszenierung religiöser Atmosphäre in antiken Kulturen" in the ambit of the Kolleg's newly established "Jour Fixe". Discussing materials and methods with an interdisiplinary group of scholars based in Marburg proved to give fruitful insights for both projects.

  • "Comitato Scientifico" of new jounal "Antico Oriente Mediterraneo", since March 2024

    In 2024, a new scientific journal "Antico Oriente Mediterraneo" (AMO) has come to life. The journal aims at being a research laboratory for studies on the history, economics, law, literature, and religion of the Ancient Mediterranean East, including Roman and rabbinic law, from an interdisciplinary perspective. The open access version can be found here. The journal is directed by Ariel Lewin (Università degli Studi della Basilicata), Francesco Lucrezi (Università degli Studi di Salerno), and Samuele Rocca (Ariel University). Besides other scholars from various countries, also Professors Catherine Hezser (SOAS, University of London) and Constantin Willems (University of Marburg) are members of the "comitato scientifico" of the new journal.

  • Kick-off-Workshop, Marburg, 28 and 29 September 2023

    On 28 and 29 September 2023, the kick-off workshop to the project was hosted at the University of Marburg, including the UK and German project team as well as scholars of religious studies and Roman law from Marburg and abroad.

    In the course of the workshop, the project was presented and selected passages from the Yerushalmi tractate Baba Qamma were discussed against the background of Roman civil law. Subsequent to introductions to the Talmud Yerushalmi and rabbinic legal sources and to the legal background of Roman law and its sources, participants discussed issues of damages caused by animals that are harmless or attested dangers (e.g. negligence of the owners and punishment of the animals), questions of "cumulative" and "overtaking" causation, the responsibility for damage caused by a fire (esp. intent, negligence, and vis maior), and double (etc.) indemnity for theft.

    In the picure from left to right: Prof. Dr. Thomas Rüfner (Roman Law, Universität Trier), Prof. Dr. Catherine Hezser (PI, Jewish Studies, SOAS, University of London), Prof. Dr. Angela Standhartinger (New Testament, Philipps-Universität Marburg), Thabo Huntgeburth (project administrator, SOAS, University of London), Philipp Huber (New Testament, Philipps-Universität Marburg), Prof. Dr. Constantin Willems (PI, Roman Law, Philipps-Universität Marburg), Lisa Nardone (project assistant, Roman Law, Philipps-Universität Marburg), Laura Gold (project assistant, Roman Law, Philipps-Universität Marburg), and Prof. Dr. Tommaso Beggio (Roman Law, Università di Trento).