[b-hebrew] law

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Fri Jun 23 14:44:22 EDT 2006

Dear James,
I can understand why the situation that you read seems reasonable, and
therefore has what is called "face validity," meaning that on the face of
it, it seems valid. 

However, archaeologists have discovered that in Israel in the hill country,
the area that was inhabited by Judeans and Israelites, people in the Bronze
Age (time of Abraham?) were abstaining from pork, while people in the Jordan
rift valley and in the Shephela did include pork in their diet. This
suggests that people whom archaeologists insist on calling
"proto-Israelites" (but I don't know why) abstained from pork.  There is
also archeological evidence, as well as scriptural, that the
Israelite/Hebrew people were circumcising themselves in Egypt. Therefore it
is hard to argue that the ten commandments came first and that other laws
were added on to it. I would suggest that the so-called laws that you see
listed in the Hebrew Bible were simply the ancestral customs of the people
Israel and that these were their customs from time immemorial, way before
there was a Moses. 

I do not agree further that they were instituted by Ezra or at the time of
Ezra. They were certainly followed by the Jews at Elephantine who never
heard of Ezra at all. 

Further, in response to an earlier comment about Jesus, it is a crux in
discussions about the historical Jesus what aspects of torah law he accepted
or did not. Although Mark (I think it's Mark) says that Jesus made all food
kosher, that has been disputed by scholars of the historical Jesus. We have
no information really about the historical Jesus, so it is impossible to
know what he thought. We see him only through the eyes of the early church
which was bent on distinguishing for the Romans the early Christians from
the Jews who had rebelled against Rome.

Liz Fried
Ann Arbor
> JCR:Yeah! I think there is some truth in it as well.
> When I read the Torah and see how the 'law' gradually
> seems to get more and more complex I can almost imagine
> the situation going like this:
> Yah gives a simple list of commandments known as the
> ten commandments.
> The people try to live by these commandments as they
> roam and see that in certain circumstances they are
> not so straight forward to apply.
> The people coming to Moses and saying 'What if...?'.
> Moses keeps adding to the law until eventually we
> at this long list of complex laws which all derived
> from the simple laws of loving Yah and being nice to
> other people.
> Dear Lisbeth ,
> >
> >I'd like to call your attention to my article in Persia and Torah (SBL
> >2001)and all the references cited there which argue that these lists of
> >"laws" did not function then as our law codes function today.  In other
> >words, they were not true laws, in our sense.  Rather, they were lists
> >designed to illustrate a just society. There is no evidence that judges
> >these lists to make judicial decisions.
> >
> HH: There is truth in this to some extent, since God Himself was to
> guide the judges in difficult cases. Yet, it seems clear that these laws
> were intended to guide the life of the society as more than a model.
> They provided the actual mode of operation for the society, the most
> basic legal framework from which the relevant details could be filled
> in. There was to be no work on the Sabbath, and the society operated
> according to that law. The Sabbath law apparently had not existed before
> God instituted it in Exodus 16, so it grew directly out of divine
> legislation.
> Yours,
> Harold Holmyard
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