A Law Book for the Diaspora: Revision in the Study of the Covenant Code

A Law Book for the Diaspora: Revision in the Study of the Covenant Code

A Law Book for the Diaspora: Revision in the Study of the Covenant Code

A Law Book for the Diaspora: Revision in the Study of the Covenant Code

Synopsis

The foundation for all study of biblical law is the assumption that the Covenant Code is the oldest legal code in the Hebrew Bible and that all other laws are revisions of that code. This book sets forth the radical hypothesis that those laws in the covenant code that are similar to Deuteronomy and the Holiness Code are in fact later than both of these, and therefore can't be taken as the foundation of Hebrew Law.

Excerpt

This book arises out of a personal scholarly concern for the Pentateuch that stretches over thirty years. Most of my previous research on the Pentateuch has been centered upon the non-Priestly corpus, for which I continue to use the term “Yahwist. ” This includes material that some would distinguish as the Elohist, but I have strongly advocated the view that the whole of the non-Priestly corpus should be considered a single literary work. My previous historical and literary-critical study of the Yahwist has been to investigate the narrative of his work as a piece of ancient historiography, and in this identification of its genre, I stand in the tradition of Gerhard von Rad, who likewise considered the Yahwist as a historian. Yet, like von Rad, I recognize that the form of the Pentateuch in general, and the Yahwist source in particular, is not just history but also law, and in the last few years, I have turned my attention to the corpus of law within the non-Priestly and non-Deuteronomic part of the Pentateuch. Contrary to the earlier views of the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch, I regard law in the form of the Covenant Code of Exod 20:23–23:33 as integral to the work of the Yahwist. Thus, von Rad's assertion that the Pentateuch is both history and law is even truer than he supposed. Indeed, apart from his initial discussion of the “form-critical problem of the Hexateuch, ” in which he found the origins of law within primitive Israelite liturgies and festival, he never did return to the question of the relationship of law to the work of the Yahwist.

When I began my close examination of the Yahwist in the Book of Exodus, as reflected in The Life of Moses (1994), I was under the common scholarly assumption that most of the Covenant Code was an older collection of laws that was taken up by the Yahwist and incorporated into his own work. Such a possibility was in no way incompatible with my supplementary view of the Pentateuch's compositional history and the nature of the Yahwist's work. in my earlier work on the Yahwist in Exodus-Numbers, I considered the prologue (Exod 20:23–26) and epilogue (23:20–33) as the work of the Yahwist, but the rest I set aside for later investigation. When I did finally turn my attention to the Covenant Code, I no longer viewed it under the common assumption that these laws must be early because they are embedded in early Pentateuchal sources, for I had already come to the conclusion that the larger non-Priestly narrative context was . . .

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