Shorter Reviews and Notices -- Israel and the Book of the Covenant: An Anthropological Approach to Biblical Law by Jay W. Marshall

Article excerpt

Israel and the Book of the Covenant: An Anthropological Approach to Biblical Law, by Jay W. Marshall. SBL Diss. Series 140. Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1993. 204 pp. $26. 95 (paper). ISBN 1-5540-832-X.

As THE SUBTITLE SUGGESTS, Marshall proposes a method that reads biblical law from an anthropological perspective, a method that considers both process and form. The method assumes an interaction between law, social structure, and cultural base, and is presented as a corrective to readings of biblical law that have been dominated by literary and comparative studies, readings that he reviews and critiques in Chapter 1.

In Chapters 2 and 3, Marshall develops the theory on which his detailed exegesis of the Book of the Covenant (BC) in Chapters 4 and 5 rests. In developing an anthropological model of law, Marshall draws on ethnographies combined with archaeological data. Marshall's model is cultural materialist in orientation. The method proposed requires information about variables that constitute the material cultural base With information about these variables, one can project the range of possibilities for sociopolitical structure, legal institutions, and substantive law within a culture. In Chapter 3, Marshall surveys the environmental and socioeconomic variables of ancient Israel and, having done so, projects a range of expected social, political, and legal possibilities for the people of Israel, which he then tests against the substantive law contained in biblical law codes. The third step in Marshall's analysis is an examination of BC laws, extracting information about culture, society, and values contained in them and integrating that information into his theoretical model. …