Rabbinic law between biblical logic and biblical text: The pitfalls of exodus 21:33-34

Daniel R. Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


When the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court conclude that some law, or some decision of a lower court, violates the U.S. Constitution, no great difficulties of principle or sentiment need accompany their decision to abrogate the opinions of the earlier legislators or judges. The justices, and others, are expected to understand their decision either as correcting a mistake that had been introduced by fallible people who, with intentions good or bad, or unintentionally, had violated the system's basic rulebook, or as reflecting the fact that since the time those legislators or judges made their decisions something relevant (such as notions of cruel and unusual punishment or of what affects interstate commerce) had changed, so what was once constitutionally acceptable no longer is. Thus, however upsetting the substance of the justices' decision may be, it need not imply a condemnation of their predecessors nor entail a disruption of the system's authority structures - as is seen in the fact that the justices, and American citizens, readily use such explicit verbs as reverse, strike down, or overturned for what the justices do.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)314-339
Number of pages26
JournalHarvard Theological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


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