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Codes as Constitution:\ud The Development of the Biblical Law-Codes \ud from Monarchy to Theocracy\ud

By HUIPING HU

Abstract

As a result of influence from assyriology and the sociology of law, the Hebrew legal texts have commonly been categorised in recent study as ancient law-codes analogous to the cuneiform codes recovered from the ancient Near East. This has not led, however, to a more constructive and decisive stage in the study of biblical law, and conceptual and methodological problems have been imported from each field. The current interpretative models of the texts, in terms either of legislative, or of non-legislative functions, fail to provide a coherent explanation for their formation. \ud This thesis is to contrive a fair and neutral approach that can embrace different types of law on the one hand, and make allowance for legal development on the other. Abandoning more casual modern presuppositions about the character of law and of legal systems, the analysis takes as its starting-point the basic concept of law universally accepted by scholars of jurisprudence, and shifts the debate from the old question of whether these ancient codes were “law” or “not law” to questions about why and how these ancient law-codes could have been formulated and functioned in their contemporary societies. The analysis also looks beyond the cuneiform law-codes and concepts of kingship in the ancient Near East, to other early laws developed in different cultures, such as Athens and imperial China. \ud Against such a historical and conceptual background, the conceptual leap reflected in the Torah from common monarchical law to the constitution of theocracy is examined within the changing socio-historical contexts of Israel itself, from the period of the monarchy through to the Exile. While the initial development of the Hebrew law is thus reconstructed in accord with the general position of monarchical law in ancient empires, the legal breakthrough made in the Torah will be associated with exilic Israel, which transformed the concept of law and the socio-political system for the purpose of reconstituting the nation. \u

Topics: Hebrew law, Pentateuch, cuneiform law-codes, Theocracy
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:133
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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