Monday, December 17, 2018

The Value & Insight of the "Old" Law Code in the Bible

* A selection from the introduction to Jonathan Burnside's God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible.

"We live in a neophiliac culture, which means that we value what is new and automatically assume--correctly--that the latest iPod is better than the previous version.  In the same vein, we naturally assume that subjects such as medicine and the natural sciences are far more sophisticated than they were three or four thousand years ago.  Unfortunately, the same reasoning does not apply when carried over to other fields of human endeavor, such as law.  We cannot assume that 'new law' is always 'best,' that antiquity is a disqualification when it comes to legal reasoning, and that the past has nothing to do with today.  The reverse, in fact, is as likely to be true.  We find in biblical rules and judgments a level of insight that has rarely, if ever, been surpassed.  Nor do we find in other legal systems a more positive vision for humanity and the world than that found in the biblical legal collections.  Neither should we underestimate the intellectual or the literary powers of people in biblical society.  The student of biblical law who explores the texts in detail finds that they are sound, wise, and practical.  Just as in Dworkin's theory of liberal jurisprudence, we find Law's Empire, so in biblical jurisprudence, we encounter what we can call 'Law's Splendor.'"  (p. xxxviii)