The Contested Limits of Nature, Law, and Covenant
Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2017-02-28
311 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.14 in
- Published: March 2017
In Jewish Justice David Novak explores the continuing role of Judaism for crafting ethics, politics, and theology. Drawing on sources as diverse as the Bible, the Talmud, and ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, Novak asserts Judaism's integral place in communal discourse of the public square.
According to Novak, biblical revelation has universal implications—that it is ultimately God's law to humanity because humans made in God’s image are capable of making intelligent moral choices. The universality of this claim, however, stands in tension with the particularities of Jewish monotheism (one God, one people, one law). Novak’s challenge is for Judaism to capitalize on the way God’s law transcends particularity without destroying difference. Thus it is as Jews that Jews are called to join communities across the faithful denominations, as well as secular ones, to engage in debates about the common good.
Jewish Justice follows a logical progression from grounded ethical quandaries to larger philosophical debates. Novak begins by considering the practical issues of capital punishment, mutilation and torture, corporate crime, the landed status of communities and nations, civil marriage, and religious marriage. He next moves to a consideration of theoretical concerns: God’s universal justice, the universal aim of particular Jewish ethics, human rights and the image of God, the relation of post-Enlightenment social contract theory to the recently enfranchised Jewish community, and the voices of Jewish citizens in secular politics and the public sphere. Novak also explores the intersection of universality and particularity by examining the practice of interfaith dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
1. Can Capital Punishment Ever Be Justified in the Jewish Tradition?
2. The Elimination of Mutilation and Torture in Rabbinic Thought and Practice
3. Natural Law, Human Dignity, and the Protection of Human Property
4. Land and People: One Jewish Perspective
5. Jewish Marriage and Civil Law: A Two-Way Street?
6. Jewish Marriage: Nature, Covenant, and Contract
7. Divine Justice/Divine Command
8. The Universality of Jewish Ethics: A Rejoinder to Secularist Critics
9. The Judaic Foundation of Rights
10. Social Contract in Modern Jewish Thought: A Theological Critique
11. Toward a Jewish Public Philosophy in America
12. Defending Niebuhr from Hauerwas
13. Is Natural Law a Border Concept Between Judaism and Christianity?
With rhetorical flair and conceptual rigor, Novak offers an unapologetically Jewish theology in a manner that consistently includes non-Jewish readers and practical implications for life together in pluralist societies. It is this uniquely attractive way of inviting thinkers of all stripes into the richness of the ongoing Jewish theological and ethical conversation that makes Novak so great.~Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry, Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
David Novak, rabbi and professor, is singularly adept in the range of disciplines needed to speak wisely on Jewish justice: Talmudic/rabbinic jurisprudence, Jewish philosophy, Jewish ethics, and the history of rabbinic practice. A deep reader and interpreter of Greek, Latin, and German philosophic and theological traditions, Novak is singularly qualified to speak wisely to Christian as well as Jewish readers."~Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia
Novak's unparalleled ability to bring philosophical perspicuity to the full range of normative legal and moral texts makes him always worth reading. One could disagree with some of his substantive views, but one always learns a good deal and feels enriched by the encounter with this consummately thoughtful master of Jewish law and ethics.~Alan Mittleman, Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Jewish Philosophy, The Jewish Theological Seminary
Novak speaks as a Jewish Theologian to inform us that the Jewish canonical texts for determining the Transcendental all have the core message to act humanely and rationally as a ‘pro-active’ member of one’s community. In so doing, the communities function as homes for the Transcendental.~Sheldon Richmond, Literature and Theology
Novak is certainly to be commended for his readiness to step into the fray and take the first steps toward creating a conversation that is unabashedly grounded in ancient sources yet nonetheless engaged with the problems of today. Illuminating contemporary problems in such a clear and articulate way will undoubtedly spur on scholars of Jewish texts to excavate their sources for answers to these quandaries, which will in turn provide Novak’s successors with the tools to refine their intellectual contributions and offer sophisticated answers based in Jewish tradition as a way of enriching public discourse.~Ayelet Hoffmann Libson, Politcal Theology