Collections, codes, and Torah : the re-characterization of Israel's written law
It has been oft assumed that the law-writings in the Torah were legislation (i.e., prescriptions obliging upon society and enforced by judges). However, comparative evidence from cuneiform-law and closer analysis of the biblical records have undermined this anachronism. Scholars today generally recognize that ancient Israel’s law-collections were not legislation, but served monumental, didactic, and other functions. But accepting this understanding opens up another question: late Second Temple Judaism viewed the Torah as binding-law; how did this re-characterization come about? The question is relatively fresh in circles of biblical-law. Though it has received some attention, more is needed. The purpose of the present dissertation is to contribute toward this question. To date, scholars have primarily focused on the reforms of Josiah (2Kgs 22-23) and those of Ezra and Nehemiah, due to the prominent role of the “law-book” in these periods. In terms of methodology, scholars have tended to use developmental models or comparative evidence to tease out the significance of these accounts. While such approaches are necessary, this project addresses another need: close examination of the law-book’s actual application in these accounts. After laying necessary groundwork (in chs 1-2), the first part of the dissertation (chs 3-4) examines “how is the law-book being used?” in these two reforms. Significant developments are discerned, but nothing is deemed to indicate a fundamental re-characterization of law-writings from traditional functions. In the second part of the dissertation (chs 5-7), evidence from the Hellenistic era is advanced to indicate the introduction of a radical re-characterization of law-writing and to hypothesize two mechanisms for “triggering” it (i.e., Ptolemaic judicial policies and Hellenistic ethnographical standards). The final chapter (ch8) summarizes the “Torah re-characterization model” thus developed and indicates implications and directions for further study.