The origins of oral torah: A new pauline perspective

Yael Fisch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article proposes to rethink the genealogy and origin of the rabbinical terms Oral Torah and Written Torah. The terms appear for the first time in Tannaitic literature, yet scholars have attempted to ascribe to them an earlier date and to present them as a Second Temple, specifically Pharisaic, distinction. This article problematizes the existing genealogies and considers neglected evidence found in Paul's Letter to the Romans that advances our understanding of the Oral Torah/Written Torah distinction in the first century CE. According to my rereading of Rom 10:5-13 and 3:19-31, Paul has a notion of double-nomos within scripture, and his twofold torah is presented as oral and written. Apart from rabbinic literature, it is only in Paul that we find the use of an Oral Torah/Written Torah distinction. This evidence affects both how the history of the rabbinic terms is understood and how Paul is configured in his Jewish matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-66
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for the Study of Judaism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • New Testament
  • Oral Torah
  • Paul
  • Pharisees
  • Rabbinic literature
  • Second Temple
  • Tannaitic literature


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