Law as Religion, Religion as Law


The conventional approach to the relationship between law and religion operates with the assumption that these are two discrete domains, which often clash with one another. This outlook animates public discourse about such basic topics and tropes as the freedom of religion and freedom from religion; religion and human rights; and the competing jurisdiction of civil and religious courts.

A dichotomous account, however, is not the only way to understand the intersection between law and religion. The “Law as Religion, Religion as Law” project will explore a different perspective that considers religion and law as two kinds of orientations or sensibilities; or two alternate ways of structuring reality. From this vantage point, religion and law share similar properties, and arguably have a more symbiotic relationship. Moreover, many legal systems exhibit religious characteristics, and most religions invoke legal categories or terminology. This suggestive blurring of categories is likewise worthy of further inquiry.

This project will take place over two years, and comprises several parts and stages. During the years 2016-2017 a group of Israeli researches will meet and study together sources and issues on the topic “Law as Religion, Religion as Law”. In the summer of 2016 an international workshop took place, comprising three days of workshops on the topic of the project. Researchers from a wide range of disciplines and research interests took place in this workshop. In the summer of 2017 an international conference is due to take place, in which new research on the topic of “Law as Religion, Religion as Law” will be presented. For the call to propose papers for the conference, please see here . Following the conference, the article drafts will be sent for peer review, and if accepted, will be published in a designated volume (published with a leading academic press).

The project is made possible thanks to the support of the Barak Center for Interdisciplinary Research, The Hebrew University


Organizers: Benjamin Porat and David Flatto



Study Group - Jewish-Christian Polemic on the Nature of Law

 For the second year of the scholarly project on "Law as Religion, Religion as Law," we will be convening a study group focusing upon the "Jewish-Christian Polemic on the Nature of Law."

 The study group will meet six times, three per semester.  Each meeting will be dedicated to a guided study of relevant texts on a specific topic.  

The meetings will take place on Thursdays, 14:00-15:30, at Hebrew University Law School on Mount Scopus, Room 357 (the Freimann Room, on the same floor as the law library).  Light refreshments will be served.  [Please take note of the slight change in time and in a date, relative to an earlier announcement].  


Here is a schedule of our meetings:

First Semester

 8.12.16--Professor Yisrael Yuval (Hebrew University), "The Law of Inheritance and the Heritage of Law: Oral Law versus the New Testament"

 15.12.16--Professor Gary Anderson (University of Notre Dame), "Almsgiving Delivers from Death: Jewish, Protestant and Catholic Polemics about the Rewards that attend keeping the Mitsvot"

 29.12.16--Professor Moshe Halbertal (Hebrew University), "The Law as a Gift, and Love of the Law: Between the Tannaitic and Pauline Traditions"


 Second Semester

2.3.17--Professor Jeremy Cohen (Tel Aviv University), "Thomas Aquinas, Observing the Mitsvot of the Torah, and the Problem of Supersessionism"

9.3.17--Professor Paula Fredriksen (Boston University and the Hebrew University), "Paul, Origen and Augustine on the "Christian" status of Jewish law"

30.3.17--Dr. Barbara Meyer (Tel Aviv University), "The Charge of Legicide" 


The project is sponsored by the Aharon Barak Center for Interdisciplinary Legal Research

Confrence 2017

Law as Religion, Religion as Law Conference

Mt. Scopus, June 5th-7th, 2017

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Maiersdorf Faculty Club, Room 405

Click here to view the videos

Monday, June 5th

Welcome and Refreshments

Introduction and Opening Remarks


Session 1: Law and Theology in the Bible and in its Wake

  • Dr. Assnat Bartor (Tel Aviv University) “Biblical Law – A Successful Relationship between Law and Religion”
  • Dr. Ronit Irshai (Bar-Ilan University) “Law, Morality, and "Akedah" Theology”
  • Dr. Benjamin Porat (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), “Legal-Theological Revolutions

Session 2: Legal Theology in the Modern Era


Prof. Michael Karayanni
The Bruce W. Wayne Chair in International Law & Dean, Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Keynote Speaker

Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger (University of Haifa) “Biblical Justice: A Secular Reading”


Tuesday, June 6th

Session 3: The Theology of Family Law

Session 4: Second Temple and Rabbinic Perspectives

  • Prof. David Flatto (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) “Law as Salvation: Three Paradigms”
  • Yedidah Koren (Tel-Aviv University) “"Mamzerim and Netinim will be Pure in the Future to Come" (t. Kid 5:4) – Law, Eschatology and Demonology in Ancient Judaism”
  • Dr. Haim Shapira (Bar-Ilan University) “The Virtue of Mercy – Law and Religion”

Session 5: The Theological Roots of Western Law

Session 6: Law, Religion and Minorities

Keynote Speaker

Prof. Samuel Moyn (Harvard Law School) “The Secret Origins of Human Dignity”


Wednesday, June 7th

Session 7: Commandments: between Theology and Jurisprudence


Session 8: Legal Theology: between East and West


Session 9: Liturgy and Speech Acts

  • Dr. Ayelet Libson (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) “The Legal Functions of Liturgy
  • Prof. Miryam Segal (Queens College, The City University of New York) “Neder and Nomos”


Session 10: Liturgy and Speech Acts

Keynote Speaker

Prof. Joseph Weiler (New York University) “The Trial of Jesus - A Theology”



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2016 Workshop