Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation

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Overview

Positioned at the boundary of traditional biblical studies, legal history, and literary theory, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation shows how the legislation of Deuteronomy reflects the struggle of its authors to renew late seventh- century Judean society. Seeking to defend their revolutionary vision during the neo-Assyrian crisis, the reformers turned to earlier laws, even when they disagreed with them, and revised them in such a way as to lend authority to their new understanding of God's will. Passages that other scholars have long viewed as redundant, contradictory, or displaced actually reflect the attempt by Deuteronomy's authors to sanction their new religious aims before the legacy of the past.
Drawing on ancient Near Eastern law and informed by the rich insights of classical and medieval Jewish commentary, Levinson provides an extended study of three key passages in the legal corpus: the unprecedented requirement for the centralization of worship, the law transforming the old Passover into a pilgrimage festival, and the unit replacing traditional village justice with a professionalized judiciary. He demonstrates the profound impact of centralization upon the structure and arrangement of the legal corpus, while providing a theoretical analysis of religious change and cultural renewal in ancient Israel. The book's conclusion shows how the techniques of authorship developed in Deuteronomy provided a model for later Israelite and post- biblical literature.
Integrating the most recent European research on the redaction of Deuteronomy with current American and Israeli scholarship, Levinson argues that biblical interpretation must attend to both the diachronic and the synchronic dimensions of the text. His study, which provides a new perspective on intertextuality, the history of authorship, and techniques of legal innovation in the ancient world, will engage pentateuchal critics and historians of Israelite religion, while reaching out toward current issues in literary theory and Critical Legal Studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Fishbane
An exemplary work of biblical scholarship -- careful and controlled by analytic rigor, yet bold and innovative in its scope and suggestions. Students of ancient law, legal literature, religion, and culture will greatly benefit from Levinson's work. -- Michael Fishbane
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195152883
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
1 Textual Revision and Cultural transformation: The Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation in Deuteronomy 3
2 The Innovation of Cultic Centralization in Deuteronomy 12 23
3 The Transformation of Passover and Unleavened Bread in Deuteronomy 16 53
4 The Transformation of Justice in Light of Centralization 98
5 The Revisionary Hermeneutics of Deuteronomy 144
Bibliography 159
Author Index 179
Subject Index 185
Index of Scriptural and Other Sources 199
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