Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at
Sat Jan 26 13:52:22 EST 2002

Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..Hi Jonathan,

  -----Original Message-----
  From: Jonathan D. Safren [mailto:yon_saf at]
  Sent: Sat, January 26, 2002 4:29 AM
  To: Lisbeth S. Fried; Biblical Hebrew
  Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

  Dear Liz,

  Rolf Furuli wrote:
  Some years ago we read the laws of Hammurapi in class and it bacame
evident for the students how different these are from the laws in the
Pentateuch, even though there are similarities as well. So it seems to me
that there generally is a clear quality difference between the Hebrew
documents of the Tanach and other documents of antiquity.

  Liz Fried asked:
  OK What differences do you see here?

  Since I'm getting ready to teach all these subjects in a few weeks, I'd
like to know.

  [JDS] I'm teaching a seminar on the Development of Hebrew Law from its ANE
antecedents through the development of halakhah and down to Conservative and
Reform responsa.
  I agree with Rolf that there is a qualitative difference between the ANE
law codes and the Pentateuchal law corpi, but not necessarily in the way he
understands it.

  First of all, the biblcal law corpi weren't meant to be law codes as such.
They function as stipulations within the various conceptions of the Divine
suzerainty treaty with Israel. This explains the presence of both apodictic
formulation, which we find in ANE suzerainty treaties - along with casuistic
formulation - but not in ANE law codes. This also explains the presence of
cultic-religious laws, absent in ANE law codes. In the Israelite law corpi,
they function as methods of expressing loyalty to the Divine sovereign.

  [LSF} Hasn't  Ray Westbrook discussed this? I don't think apodictic laws
are that rare
  but maybe they are. If they are rare in the law codes and not rare in the
Vassal Treaties,
  that's interesting. (To me, anyway, maybe everyone else knows this.)

  As for the ANE codes, they serve to demonstrate the justness of the
monarch (cf. the intro. and conclusion to CH). \legal-administrative
documents from the same places and periods demonstrate that the actual legal
practices were different.

  [LSF] The same is here as well, only I suppose the monarch is YHWH.

  Secondly, the concept of the lawgiver is different. In CH or Ur-Nammu, the
king is not the lawgiver. In the Pentateuch, God is the lawgiver, by virtue
of his being suzerain and imposing a suzerainty treaty on his Israelite
vassals (remember, they are called "servants").

  [LSF] I do agree that it is unique that the laws come from YHWH. In
Mesopotamia, the
  kinatum are in the air, not specifically from the god or the king.

  Thirdly, the whole moral framework is different. In the ANE, life and limb
was not a supreme value, but measurable in terms of money and social
standing. In the Bible, life is of supreme value, not to be measured in
money, because Man was created in God's image (Gen. 1; 9). Therefore, in CH,
murder is not always punished by death; it depends on social status.
InIsrael murder is always punished by death. In the ANE codes, theft may
sometimes be punishable by death. In the Bible it never is. Property is only

  [LSF] No murder isn't always punished by death, cf Exodus 21:20. No
  is listed. How do you translate naqom yenaqem?

  Thus, in the Bible we have "an eye for an eye", while in CH we have
monetary compensation. The reason the Rabbis substituted a fine for physical
maiming was humane and not financial: What can be gained by maiming another
human being? How will the offender be able to support his family? Same with
the  death penalty. Executing a human being is murder too, in its fashion.
Therefore the Rabbis made it almost impossible to execute anyone.
  My case rests here.

  [LSF]] Thanks Jonathan,
  Jonathan D. Safren
  Dept. of Biblical Studies
  Beit Berl College

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