Crusemann on Mosaic Courts, Deuteronomistic Additions to the Cultic Decalogue, and Unjust Mishpatim

For my write-up today of Frank Crusemann’s The Torah: Theology and Social History of Old Testament Law, I have three items:

1.  On page 107, Crusemann states: “There probably was a Mosaically legitimized institution during the monarchic period that made a decisive contribution to the establishment of a legal system independent of the state and royalty.”  In the post-exilic period, however, “Moses” was the rubric under which different traditions were united, the Torah could “survive all institutions”, and tradition could be renewed.  But, regarding the pre-exilic monarchic period, “Moses” was used to legitimize a court system—which we see in II Chronicles 19 that King Jehosophat sanctioned, but which (according to Crusemann) was independent of the monarchy.  It consisted of judges, priests, and heads of families, and there is evidence in the Deuteronomic law of its existence.  Crusemann states on page 98 that this court spoke in the name of Moses and handled “the Israelite law originating ultimately from God” (page 98).

2.  On pages 118-119, Crusemann talks about the scholarly argument that there are Deuteronomistic additions to Exodus 34, which contains the cultic Decalogue:

“This, of course, raises the question to what extent is it legitimate to use literary criticism on phrases and expressions like ‘take care that…’ simply because they are found only or predominantly in Deuteronomy or in deuteronomistic texts.  This eliminates the possibility that this might be, for example, an early deuteronomistic text.  What justification is there to regard phrases such as ‘jealous God’…which appears next to the unique ‘jealous YHWH’…in verse 14 as only an addition, because it is otherwise found only in Deuteronomy and the Decalogue?  The stylistically impressive doubling in verse 14 is then destroyed.  By what right do we exclude as deuteronomistic the formula already found in Hosea, ‘your God;’ or the designation, though not word-for-word at least present in substance in pre-deuteronomistic material, of another temple besides Jerusalem as ‘house of God?'”

Crusemann’s argument is that not everything that is identified as a Deuteronomistic addition to Exodus 34 necessarily is that, for the Deuteronomistic terminology either appears in non-Deuteronomistic material, or Crusemann can envision a non-Deuteronomist using it (i.e., “take care that”).  But Crusemann is open to accepting v 25b as Deuteronomistic.  That verse refers to a chag—a pilgrimage festival—which, for Crusemann, assumes a central cultic place, a significant feature of Deuteronomic and Deuteronomistic thought.

3.  On pages 166-167, Crusemann states that the Mishpatim of the Covenant Code are the Jerusalem Court’s legal code and contain some of the unjust decrees that Isaiah in the eighth century lambasted in Isaiah 10:1-4.  The Mishpatim presume debt slavery, allow fathers to sell their daughters, have marriage laws that could put people into permanent slavery (since a slave would have to stay with his master to keep his wife and children), and distinguish the free man with rights (the ish) from the slave.  But there is another part of the Covenant Code, the mercy law, which concerns compassion for the aliens.  This became an issue after 722, when Northern Israelites fled to Judah because the Assyrians devastated Northern Israel.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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