Uncertainty Rules in Talmudic Reasoning

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The Babylonian Talmud, compiled from the 2nd to 7th centuries C.E., is the primary source for all subsequent Jewish laws. It is not written in apodeictic style, but rather as a discursive record of (real or imagined) legal (and other) arguments crossing a wide range of technical topics. Thus, it is not a simple matter to infer general methodological principles underlying the Talmudic approach to legal reasoning. Nevertheless, in this article, we propose a general principle that we believe helps to explain the variety of methods used by the Rabbis of the Talmud for resolving uncertainty in matters of Jewish Law (henceforth: Halakhah). Such uncertainty might arise either if the facts of a case are clear but the relevant law is debatable or if the facts themselves are unclear.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01445340.2010.506102

Affiliations: 1: King's College London, UK 2: Bar Ilan University, Israel

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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