Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Some Postulates of Biblical Criminal Law *
1960

Among the chief merits of Professor Kaufmann's work is the tremendous impetus it has given to the study of the postulates of biblical thought. The debt that the present paper owes to this stimulus and to the lines of investigation laid down by Professor Kaufmann is patent. It is a privilege to have the occasion to offer it to him in grateful tribute.

The study of biblical law has been a stepchild of the historical-critical approach to the Bible. While the law had been a major preoccupation of ancient and medieval scholars, in modern times it has largely been replaced by, or made to serve, other interests. No longer studied for itself, it is now investigated for the reflexes it harbors of stages in Israel's social development, or it is analyzed by literary-historical criticism into strata, each synchronized with a given stage in the evolution of Hebrew religion and culture. The main interest is no longer in the law as an autonomous discipline, but in what the laws can yield to the social or religious historian. It is a remarkable fact that the last comprehensive juristic treatment of biblical law was made over a century ago.1

The sociological and literary-historical approaches have, of course, yielded permanent insights, yet it cannot be said that they have exhausted all the laws have to tell about the life and thought of Israel. Too often they have been characterized by theorizing that ignores the

____________________
*
From M. Haran, ed., Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume, Jerusalem, Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1960, 5-28.

-25-

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