Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation

Bernard M. Levinson, DEUTERONOMY AND THE HERMENEUTICS OF LEGAL INNOVATION, Oxford University Press, 1997

Posted: 7 Jun 2011

Date Written: October 23, 1997


Drawing on ancient Near Eastern law and informed by the rich insights of classical and medieval Jewish commentary, Levinson provides an extended study of three key passages in the legal corpus: the unprecedented requirement for the centralization of worship, the law transforming the old Passover into a pilgrimage festival, and the unit replacing traditional village justice with a professionalized judiciary. He demonstrates the profound impact of centralization upon the structure and arrangement of the legal corpus, while providing a theoretical analysis of religious change and cultural renewal in ancient Israel.

From the back cover (paperback edition, 2002):

“Bernard Levinson's book is a major study. He demonstrates the radical break with the past and the way in which the authors or composers of Deuteronomy not only transformed religion and society in ancient Israel but also radically revised its literary history. The power and accomplishment of the Deuteronomic movement has rarely been so clearly demonstrated....With this book, Levinson places himself in the front rank of Deuteronomy scholars.” — Patrick D. Miller, Charles P. Haley Professor of Old Testament Exegesis and Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

“Levinson’s important study restores biblical scholarship to its proper ambience — the painstaking discipline of textual analysis. . . . This elegant study . . . deserves the widest readership. Levinson opens up a whole new approach to biblical studies which. . . will prove very much more profitable than much recent work purporting to illuminate our understanding of Scripture.” — Journal of Theological Studies

“This is a careful technical study, which incorporates the positions of the major scholars in the field . . . one will not be able to do serious study of Deuteronomy without consulting this book.” — The Bible Today

“[T]his innovative study opens a whole range of literary and hermeneutical questions that will recharge the study of biblical legal literature. Essential for all scholars, students, and libraries.” — Religious Studies Review

“Levinson sheds important new light on the authors who created Deuteronomy and on the evolution of biblical exegesis during the biblical period.” — Bible Review

“Levinson’s book is a tour de force.” — Journal of Semitic Studies

Bernard M. Levinson holds the Berman Family Chair in Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota

Keywords: law, Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, theology/biblical studies, hermeneutics, biblical studies, comparative law, Old Testament, intellectual history, Assyriology, constitutional theory, Pentateuchal theory, Second Temple Judaism, Old Testament theology

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Bernard M., Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (October 23, 1997). Bernard M. Levinson, DEUTERONOMY AND THE HERMENEUTICS OF LEGAL INNOVATION, Oxford University Press, 1997, Available at SSRN:

Bernard M. Levinson (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota ( email )

245 Nicholson Hall
216 Pillsbury Dr., SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0229
United States
612-625-4323 (Phone)


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