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Natural Law in Judaism


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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The challenge of modern secularity; 2. Scriptural foundations; 3. Jewish ethics and natural law; 4. Maimonides' teleology of the law; 5. Natural law and created nature; 6. Noahide law and human personhood; 7. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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This 1998 book presents a theory of natural law, significant for the study of Judaism, philosophy and comparative ethics.


'I have known Professor Novak for several decades. I have not ceased to be astonished by his versatility, by his thorough familiarity with the full range of classical Jewish literature, and by his talent for finding matching analogies in general world literature. He combines both the traditional scholar's facility in conceptual analysis with the critical scholar's insistence upon exactitude and accuracy. Only Professor Novak with his profound knowledge of Judaica and his acumen in philosophy could have written such a sensible and reliable book on Natural Law in Judaism which embraces also law, philosophy and ethics. The manner in which he integrates these subjects is a scholarly feat, the intellect at its best.' David Weiss Halivni, Lucieus N. Littauer Professor of Classical Rabbinic Civilization, Columbia University 'While the phrase 'natural law' is not common among Jewish thinkers, who tent to polarise between those who insist on the utter particularity of the Torah and those who settle for a secular human rights agenda, David Novak shows how the reality is presupposed for there to be a people addressed by Torah: natural law is the cardinal presupposition of Sinai! Novak's critical retrieval of classical sources of Maimonides and Nachmanides is coupled with a clear insistence that without an effective natural law the universal significance of the genocide at Auschwitz will inevitably be diverted into a monopolizing claim to victimhood. In short, Judaism needs natural law not just to find common space with others, but to be its authentic self.' David Burrell, Theodore M. Hesburgh Professor in arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame 'In this remarkable book David Novak has provided the most compelling account and defense of natural law we have had in modernity. His book hopefully will be read as eagerly by Christians as Jews. We all have much to learn from Novak not only as a philosopher but particularly as a theologian.' Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke University

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