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All Books and Software: Biblical Studies: Pentateuch, Torah, and Studies on Biblical Law

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"The Right Chorale"

Studies in Biblical Law and Interpretation

by Bernard M. Levinson 54
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Table of Contents
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This book presents twelve selected investigations of textual composition, interpretation, revision, and transmission. With these studies, Bernard Levinson draws on the literary forebears of biblical law in cuneiform literature and its reinterpretation in the Second Temple period to provide the horizon of ancient Israelite legal exegesis. The volume makes a sustained argument about the nature of textuality in ancient Israel: Israelite scribes were sophisticated readers, authors, and thinkers who were conscious of their place in literary and intellectual history, even as they sought to renew and transform their cultural patrimony in significant ways. Originally published over a decade and a half, the significantly revised and updated studies gathered here explore the connections between law and narrative, show the close connections between Deuteronomy and the Neo-Assyrian loyalty oath tradition, address the literary relationship of Deuteronomy and the Covenant Code, reflect on important questions of methodology, and explore the contributions of the Bible to later Western intellectual history. The volume offers essential reading for an understanding of the Pentateuch and biblical law.

Product Details

Publisher: Mohr Siebeck
Publication date: 2008
Bibliographic info: xxiii + 432 pages with 34 figures
Language(s): English


Cover: Cloth



"Levinson’s book on Deuteronomic law has already made him a major figure in the field. This collection shows that thoughtful reflection on major issues is required even when approaching the most particular of problems, and will be widely appreciated." —Bernard S. Jackson, in SOTS Book List 2009 =JSOT 33 (2009): 159–60.

". . . außerordentlich anregende Beiträge zur Exegese und Hermeneutik des biblischen Rechts." [. . . extraordinarily stimulating contributions to the exegesis and hermeneutics of biblical law.]—Jan Christian Gertz, in ZAW 121 (2009): 149.

"This book is testimony to the appreciable intellectual breadth and depth of the author and no less testimony to his substantive contribution to the field of biblical studies. Owing to its content (especially the helpful introductions to each part) and fine editorial management, this collection of essays coheres remarkably well as a book. The work is devoid of typographical errors as well as inconsistencies of style. It is an impressive collection and a tour de force in support of those things for which Levinson is well known. "—J. Glen Taylor, Wycliffe, University of Toronto in Review of Biblical Literature, August 2009.

"I read it [Chapter 2] through twice now, and I am amazed at how well it highlights (in my mind, at least) the distinction between the simplistic results of a surface reading of the text with the weighty implications pulled out from a deep reading and analysis. Much of what we think we “know” about the Bible falls in that first category – simplistic reading that more often than not is plain misreading. Levinson attempts to combat typical misreadings of Gen 3 by focusing on the paradoxical and complex relationship between humanity’s ack of knowledge and their freedom to choose to obey or disobey God’s command. . . I recommend reading all of it for any of you working on Genesis interpretation and how it characterizes God and his methods for disseminating knowledge..."—Douglas Magnum at

L’ouvrage de Bernard M. Levinson, spécialiste du droit biblique et professeur à l’Université du Minnesota, regroupe une série de douze articles parus entre 1990 et 2006 et tourne aussi autour du thème de la loi. . . .[O]n tient là ce qui se fait de mieux en matière d’interprétation de la législation hébraïque et d’etude sur les phénomenes de réécriture et d’exégèse intra-biblique.[This work by Bernard M. Levinson, specialist in biblical law and professor at the University of Minnesota, collects together a series of twelve articles published between 1990 and 2006, all concerning (biblical) law . . . (It) offers the best in the field of interpretation of Hebrew legislation and in the study of inner-biblical exegesis and the phenomenon of rewriting.] —Didier Luciani, Catholic University of Louvain, in Vies Consacrées 81 (2009): 229.

"Chapters 5–8 contain four of Levinson’s most important recent essays on specific legal texts. . . Each of these is a masterful illustration of the meticulous and uncompromising philology, exegetical common sense, and healthy skepticism for which Levinson is justly renowned. They also demonstrate the sort of results that may be achieved by the truly expert use of Near Eastern texts, the ancient versions and the rabbinic exegetical tradition, as opposed to the arbitrary and impressionistic theories that abound when these tools are employed by those less skilled in their use.

"Levinson is perhaps at his most penetrating and his most compelling in the final four chapters of the book, each of which contains his detailed and rigorous critique of the work of a scholar whose approach, while innovative, exhibits serious shortcomings...No biblical scholar active today carries out the arduous and delicate task of refuting untenable suggestions as responsibly as Levinson, and we are all in his debt for doing the indispensable work that many are reluctant to do. Levinson is unsurpassed in his awareness of the potential detriment to future research that methodologically problematic approaches, even idiosyncratic or transparently tendentious ones, are liable to cause if they go uncriticized and unchecked. Never dismissive, he piercingly but respectfully addresses the faulty logic, inadequate philology, historical omissions, and problematic assumptions of scholars. Proceeding point by point, he patiently adduces the relevant evidence and supplies the needed corrective."—Baruch J. Schwartz, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in AJS Review 33 (2009) 393-96.

"This collection of essays is a testimony to Levinson’s methodological brilliance and broad perspective as a bridge-builder between the various factions of Hebrew Bible scholarship."—Armin Lange, University of Vienna, in Journal of Ancient Judaism 1 (2010): 122.

"The collection as a whole triumphantly vindicates the significance of biblical law, the essential function of diachronic analysis (source and redaction criticism, and historical contextualization) in interpretation, and, especially in the last section, the established positions of the critical tradition in the succession of Wellhausen. The footnotes and bibliography are a superb resource for the study of biblical law. And the publishers have produced a beautiful volume worthily complementing a fine text."—Walter J. Houston, University of Manchester, in Journal of Semitic Studies 55 (2010): 311-12.

"These essays are of the highest scholarly quality, offering much penetrating analysis and careful, thorough argumentation. In addition, L.'s writing is fluid and erudite--at moments, even exquisite--as he passionately and cogently defends and argues anew for the necessity of diachronic methods to the venture of biblical hermeneutics. . . . As a totality, the essays in this volume represent a significant achievement, often reaching levels of insight one might characterize as brilliant."—Tracy M. Lemos in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 72(2010) 401-03.

"El volumen, pese a su carácter riguroso y preciso, está redactado con claridad y fluidez,, en constante diálogo con los diversos autores; las notas son abundantes y muy documentadas. Por su contenido y por su método, este libro será de gran interés para estudiosos de la hermenéutica biblica y de legislaciones antiguas comparadas." --Rafael Vicent, Salesianum 72:2 (2010): 369-70.

"One striking characteristic is Levinson’s attentiveness not only to what his colleagues say, but also to their own use of other scholarship. Levinson reads other scholarship no less carefully than he seeks to read the biblical text. In this reviewer’s opinion the standard of scholarly discussion about biblical law has, in recent years, far exceeded most other areas of research in Old Testament for its precision and methodological sophistication. Levinson has been at the forefront of these developments. This collection sets the bar for future scholarship very high. It should be read widely, not only by those interested in matters of biblical law and legal hermeneutics."—Nathan MacDonald, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and Saint Andrews, in Vetus Testamentum 61 (2011)

"...this is a rich compendium of work that at once represents a comprehensive response to the issues it addresses and anticipates Levinson’s future contribution to the endeavor of biblical interpretation."—Megan Warner, Melbourne College of Divinity, in Australian Biblical Review 59 (2011)

“. . . Levinson’s updated contributions to areas on which he has been working for over two decades helpfully identify central (and perennial) issues in the interpretation of biblical law, notably the interrelation of synchronic and diachronic methods and the nature of the biblical text. His work is well documented, avails itself of a wide variety of ancient and modern sources, and typically includes critical interaction with differing viewpoints. The volume contains a sizeable bibliography and indexes of Scripture, other ancient sources, authors, key words and phrases, and subjects, making this important resource easy to use.”—Daniel C. Timmer, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, Mississippi), in Studies in Religion 40 (2011)

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