Monday, October 4, 2010

From law to modern justice

Last night I had dinner in Bristol with Jonathan Burnside, who teaches law at Bristol University. Oxford University Press has just published his latest book, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of law and legality in the Bible. Here is some of the publisher's blurb:

God, Justice and Society presents biblical law as an integration of instructional genres in the Bible which together express a vision of a society ultimately accountable to God. Burnside seeks to understand both the application of law and legal theory to the Bible and the extent to which biblical law contributes important insights into legal dilemmas in today's world.

A few stimulating ideas I learnt from Jonathan. Interpretation of the Old Testament law can be significantly different depending on whether one has a narrative reading (which considers the imagery important to the Israelites and the singular historical point of not returning to the slavery of Egypt) rather than a semantic reading which can read into the text modern legal categories and concepts. This may have significant parallels to the problem of reading into the creation narrative concepts and issues from modern science and philosophy.

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