Professor Catherine Hezser awarded €700,000 UKRI-AHRC funded UK-German Collaborative Grant for research project on Rabbinic civil law in ancient legal history

Catherine Hezser, Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of History, Religions and Philosophies, has been awarded a grant of approximately €700,000 from the UKRI UK-German Collaborative Grant in the Humanities, co-funded by the AHRC and the German Research Council, for a three-year interdisciplinary collaborative research project on “Rabbinic Civil Law in the Context of Ancient Legal History: A Legal Compendium to the Bavot Tractates of the Talmud Yerushalmi.” This project will be conducted in collaboration with Professor Matthias Armgardt from the University of Hamburg and the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Ancient Law (CISAL). 

 In reaction to being awarded the grant, Professor Hezser said:  

“To be offered the AHRC grant after receiving a British Academy grant for another project this year is amazing. It feels like getting lucky twice. I look forward to the interdisciplinary collaboration with Matthias and his team from the Law Faculty of the University of Hamburg and their new Centre for Comparative Ancient Law.” 

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.