April 4, 1989
The use of the Hebrew term keter (lit. "crown") to describe agencies of Jewish autonomous rule is first apparent in tanna'itic texts, and especially in Mishrtah, Avot 4:13. This article examines the reasons for that innovation, and examines the categories of rulership to which the term was applied. It is suggested that keter reflected an identifiable notion of "sovereignty" and its exercise. In early rabbinic usage, it became a vehicle which conveyed a unique view of the constitutionally correct ordering of Jewish political life.