The Manumission of Hermeneutics: The Slave Laws of the Pentateuch as a Challenge to Contemporary Pentateuchal Theory

CONGRESS VOLUME LEIDEN 2004, pp. 281-324, André Lemaire, ed., 2006

44 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011 Last revised: 7 Jun 2011

Date Written: 2004

Abstract

The three manumission laws of the Pentateuch (Exod 21:2-6; Lev 25:39-46; Deut 15:12-18), along with their narrative reflex in Jeremiah 34, intrinsically raise the issue of the relative dating, literary relation, and direction of influence of the literary sources of the Pentateuch. They served among the key cases to develop the classical model of the sequence of the legal collections: Covenant Code (BC), Deuteronomy 12-26 (D), and the Holiness Code (H; Leviticus 17-26). More recently, scholars have used these laws to challenge the classical model. In particular, the pivotal position of Deuteronomy as standing between the Covenant Code and the Holiness Code has come under attack. Sara Japhet and Jacob Milgrom maintain that Leviticus 25 precedes rather than follows Deuteronomy 15, which implies the sequence BC, H, D. In turning to biblical law to defend the claim for a late Yahwist (J), John Van Seters maintains that the manumission law of the Covenant Code is derived from that of Deuteronomy. Still other scholars have challenged the validity of diachronic analysis altogether or have argued that the laws allude to biblical narratives. With the foundations of pentateuchal theory thus in flux, this paper investigates the methodological assumptions involved in both the classical model and its challenges. At a number of points, standard models of text composition that prevail in the discipline, whereby composition and redaction are viewed as mutually exclusive, obscure the sophistication of these texts. The importance of biblical law for contemporary pentateuchal theory is stressed. The conclusion demonstrates the extent to which, in the utopian social vision promoted by the author of Leviticus 25, the text amounts to a systematic rewriting of earlier laws (BC and D). In a sense, the chapter represents an example of “rewritten Bible” or “rewritten Scripture” within the Pentateuch itself.

Keywords: Rewritten Bible, Manumission Laws, Holiness Code, Leviticus 25, Covenant Code, Deuteronomy, Exodus 21, Deuteronomy 15, Jeremiah 34, Source Criticism, Pentateuchal Theory, Intertextuality in Bible, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee Legislation, Abrogation, Lemmatize Exegesis, Pentateuchal Theory

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Bernard M., The Manumission of Hermeneutics: The Slave Laws of the Pentateuch as a Challenge to Contemporary Pentateuchal Theory (2004). CONGRESS VOLUME LEIDEN 2004, pp. 281-324, André Lemaire, ed., 2006 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1850868

Bernard M. Levinson (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://levinson.umn.edu/

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