Classifying ‘damages’ and ‘obligations’ in Rabbinic and Roman legal thought

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Based on a parallel reading of passages relating to the taxonomy of legal obligations, my paper offers an insight into the development of abstract thinking in Roman and Rabbinic law in Late Antiquity. The paper’s case-study analyses the classification of “damages” (neziqin) in the opening passage of tractate Bava Qama in the Talmud Yerushalmi (ca. 425 CE) which is juxtaposed by the exposition of “obligations” (obligationes) in Book 3 of Justinian’s Institutes (533 CE). This case-study investigates whether taxonomic thinking was present in these legal cultures of antiquity and if so, to what extent it contributed to the systematic exposition of law. With reference to the relevant passages in the Mishnah-Tosefta (early 3rd century CE), the Institutes of Gaius (ca. 165 CE) and the juristic commentaries collected in Justinian’s Digest (533 CE), the paper investigates how preceding materials have been adapted to the logical, rhetorical and legal patterns peculiar to the Yerushalmi and Justinian’s Institutes. Reconstructing the literary-legal evolution of the classification of neziqin and obligationes will allow a preliminary comparison concerning developmental models of Roman and Rabbinic legal abstraction. The paper seeks to highlight common features as well as significant differences of conceptualisation in Rabbinic and Roman law, and explores whether these can be explained solely by differences in the social, institutional and political settings (relativist approach) or whether they reveal some inherent characteristics of the Roman and Rabbinic mind (essentialist approach).
Period22 Jul 2014
Event titleThe Xth Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies: Jewish and Non-Jewish Cultures in Contact: New Research Perspectives
Event typeConference
LocationParis, FranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Rabbinic law
  • Roman law
  • Legal reasoning