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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes
Wells, Bruce

Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004 pp. x + 226. €64.00

Series Information
Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte, 4

Description: The book examines the laws in the Pentateuch that govern trial-court witnesses and their testimony (for example, the requirement of at least two witnesses and the prohibition of false testimony). Through a detailed comparison of these laws with Neo-Babylonian trial records, the author proposes new solutions to longstanding interpretive problems posed by the biblical texts. This is the first study of pentateuchal law to make such extensive use of this Neo-Babylonian material. The book argues that these records from Mesopotamia shed important light on the biblical laws and demonstrate how rules, like those contained in the pentateuchal codes, may have operated within an ancient Near Eastern judicial system. The features shared by the biblical and Neo-Babylonian material include legal terminology, evidence requirements, a preference for empirical evidence over religious rituals for resolving disputes, and the treatment of wrongful prosecution. The author concludes that these features are more pronounced in the Neo-Babylonian than any other period, although they may have developed over time and found their way into the biblical codes even before then. The book contains fresh analysis of a number of Neo-Babylonian as well as biblical texts.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Pentateuch, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches

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Review by Jeffrey Stackert
Published 3/21/2009
Citation: Jeffrey Stackert, review of Bruce Wells, The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2009).


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