Thursday, June 06, 2024

Halberstam, Trial Stories in Jewish Antiquity (OUP)

Trial Stories in Jewish Antiquity

Counternarratives of Justice

Chaya T. Halberstam

The Bible and the Humanities

  • Identifies a trial-scene motif that appears in many different contexts and genres of ancient Jewish literature
  • Places a variety of Jewish trial narratives over time in conversation with each other as a counter-discourse to mainstream ancient legal thought
  • Offers close readings of familiar texts through the lens of legal thought about judgment and justice

Published: 21 May 2024
272 Pages
ISBN: 9780198865148
Also Available As: Ebook


What can early Jewish courtroom narratives tell us about the capacity and limits of human justice? By exploring how judges and the act of judging are depicted in these narratives, Trial Stories in Jewish Antiquity: Counternarratives of Justice challenges the prevailing notion, both then and now, of the ideal impartial judge. As a work of intellectual history, the book also contributes to contemporary debates about the role of legal decision-making in shaping a just society. Chaya T. Halberstam shows that instead of modelling a system in which lofty, inaccessible judges follow objective and rational rules, ancient Jewish trial narratives depict a legal practice dependent upon the individual judge's personal relationships, reactive emotions, and impulse to care.

Drawing from affect theory and feminist legal thought, Halberstam offers original readings of some of the most famous trials in ancient Jewish writings alongside minor case stories in Josephus and rabbinic literature. She shows both the consistency of a counter-tradition that sees legal practice as contingent upon relationship and emotion, and the specific ways in which that perspective was manifest in changing times and contexts.

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