Chapter

The Character of Biblical Law

Jonathan Burnside

in God, Justice, and Society

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199759217
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827084 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759217.003.0001
The Character of Biblical Law

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Making sense of biblical law from the distance of the 21st century means being aware of the “presupposition pool” of biblical Israel, especially in relation to law and its social practice. It shows how biblical law is similar to, and different from, ancient Near Eastern law, whilst also being different from modern law. This means we should be careful not to project a “semantic” reading onto biblical law when a “narrative” reading is more appropriate. The chapter considers how biblical law is integrated into the wider story of God's purposes for Israel and her vocation. It also shows how biblical law is characterized by a strongly didactic function and by sophisticated literary presentation, whilst also being relational, dynamic and an expression of wisdom.

Keywords: ancient Near Eastern law; biblical law; didactic function; Israel; narrative; relational; vocation; wisdom

Chapter.  14100 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public International Law

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