Making a Case: The Practical Roots of Biblical Law

September 21, 2021

2018 Wall Scholar, Sara Milstein’s new book, Making a Case: The Practical Roots of Biblical Law is out now. The book challenges the long-held notion that Israelite and Judahite scribes either made use of “old” law collections or set out to produce law collections in the Near Eastern sense of the genre. Instead, what we call “biblical law” is closer in form and function to another, oft-neglected Mesopotamian genre: legal-pedagogical texts.

During their education, Mesopotamian scribes studied a variety of legal-oriented school texts, including sample contracts, fictional cases, short sequences of laws, and legal phrasebooks. When biblical law is viewed in the context of these legal-pedagogical texts from Mesopotamia, its practical roots in a set of comparable legal exercises begin to emerge.

“My time at the Institute in 2018-2019 had a huge impact on the shape of this book. Up until that point, I had communicated almost entirely with scholars in my field or in fields closely related to mine. Now, suddenly, I found myself in the position of having to explain the origins of ancient law to people in Geography, Microbiology, and Mathematics! And what’s more, these people actually cared about what I was talking about, which made the task even more challenging, as I had to find a way to do it right. This book is still written largely for people in my field, but the style of writing is more accessible and more readable–and I credit so much of that to my “training” at PWIAS.”

Dr. Sara Milstein, 2018 Wall Scholar

The book features:

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of Mesopotamian legal-pedagogical texts
  • Demonstrates that Deuteronomy 19-25 and Exodus 21-22 are rooted in legal-pedagogical exercises, not older law collections
  • Proposes that Israel/Judah did not produce law collections in the Near Eastern sense of the genre

Making A Case: The Practical Roots of Biblical Law is available online through Oxford University Press.

Use promo code AAFLYG6 to save 30% off the cover price.