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RESEARCH: Mosaic Law Among the Moderns Workshop, 22 July 2019

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:12 AM
CIP Conference Competition Winner Dr Paul Michael Kurtz organises event for international scholars - 'Mosaic Law Among the Moderns: Constructions of Biblical Law in 19th Century Germany'
RESEARCH: Mosaic Law Among the Moderns Workshop, 22 July 2019

'Marx the Modern Moses' by D. Bernstein c.1905

Through the figure of Moses, this event uncovered the place of biblical law in modern Germany. International and interdisciplinary scholars examined how ancient religious law impacted on discourse about modern legal structures during the consolidation of German states in the 19th century, tracing the transformations of Mosaic law in cultural, intellectual and religious history.

A keynote lecture by Prof Suzanne Marchand framed discussions which took place over three days (22-24 July 2019) in St John’s College between a group of 20 scholars, who looked at questions such as:

  • Did Moses plagiarize from Hammurabi?
  • Does biblical law have any place in a secular state?
  • Are modern Jews bound by ancient law?
  • How radical are the politics of Moses?

Speakers and discussants enjoyed thought-provoking papers and lively conversation, enriched by the group's diversity in career stage – covering professors, postdocs, and PhD students – and in discipline, which ranged from history and classics to religious, German, and Jewish studies. Attendees came from Germany and France, Italy and Israel, the UK and US, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Participants are now planning to publish their research, with some expansion into other fields to help round out the volume. 

Convened by Dr Paul Michael Kurtz, formerly Marie Curie Fellow at the Faculty of Divinity and Post Doctoral Research Associate at Queens' College, with funding from the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme Conference Competition and DAAD-Cambridge Research Hub, and the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme.

Dr Kurtz is now a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation–Flanders, based at Ghent University.


Day One, 22 July

17.00 -18.00 Session 1: Introduction - Paul Kurtz (Cambridge) & Keynote

Suzanne Marchand (Baton Rouge), 'Greek Freedom and Mosaic Law in 19th-Century Germany'

Day Two, 23 July

9.30–11.00 Session 2: Bible

Ofri Ilany (Jerusalem), 'The Israelites' Nationalgeist: Ethnography and Politics in Johann David Michaelis's Interpretation of Mosaic Law'
Felix Weidemann (Berlin), 'Moses or Hammurabi? The question to the origin of law in German ancient Near Eastern studies at the turn of the 20th century'
Chair: Dan Pioske (Savannah)

11.30–13.00 Session 3: Judaism

Irene Zwiep (Amsterdam), 'Post-constitutionalism? Conceptualizations of law in the nineteenth-century Wissenschaft des Judentums'
Judith Frishman (Leiden), TBC
Chair: TBC

14.30–16.00 Session 4: Comparisons

Cristiana Facchini (Bologna), 'Monitoring German Scholarship on the Bible: Jesuit & Catholic counter-narratives (1850s-1900s)'
Annelies Lannoy (Ghent), 'The Law and the Republic. Maurice Vernes and Aristide Astruc on the history of Mosaic Law and its instruction in the ecole laique'
Chair: TBC

Day Three, 24 July

11.00–12.30 Session 5: Politics

Nico Camilleri (Padua), 'Which law for the colonial empire? Rule of law and (Christian) religion in German colonialism'
Carolin Kosuch (Göttingen), 'Moses and the Left: Traces of the Torah in Modern Jewish Political Thought'
Chair: Emiliano Urciuoli (Erfurt)

12.30–13.00 Session 6: Concluding Remarks

Paul Kurtz (Cambridge)


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