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Law and Wisdom in the Bible

David Daube’s Gifford Lectures, Volume 2

David Daube

“That over forty years after they were delivered these famous but unavailable Gifford Lectures should be published is occasion for celebration. Once again we hear Daube’s voice, patient and probing, as he turns over, tests, pushes fresh inquiries, and finds new insights. No man has had such a subtle sense of scriptural texts matched by such a supple sense of the practices and peculiarities of human beings engaged in the legal process. Law and Wisdom in the Bible is classic Daube.”—John T. Noonan Jr., United States Circuit Judge

David Daube (1909–99) was known for his unique and sophisticated research on Roman law, biblical law, Jewish Law, and medical ethics. In Law and Wisdom in the Bible, the first published collection of his 1964 Gifford Lectures, Daube derives from his complex understanding of biblical texts both ancient and contemporary notions about wisdom, justice, and education.

In addressing these and other profound issues, Daube crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and bridges the gap between humanism and religion, especially with regard to Christianity and Judaism. With his sophisticated understanding of Talmudic law and literature, his thinking, which is on full display in these lectures, revolutionized prevailing perceptions about the New Testament.

Preface / vii

Abbreviations / xi

1. The Fifth Commandment / 3

2. Deuteronomy / 26

3. Reasons for Commandments / 56

4. Justice in the Narratives / 66

5. Legal Institutions in Wisdom Books / 85

6. T he Wise Judge / 105

7. Reforms of Machinery / 127

8. T he Example of the Sage / 144

9. Mystification and Disclosure / 161

10. T he Torah / 171

Notes / 181

Index of Sources / 203

That over forty years after they were delivered these famous but unavailable Gifford Lectures should be published is occasion for celebration. Once again we hear Daube's voice, patient and probing, as he turns over tests, pushes fresh inquires, and finds new insights.

 

No man has had such a subtle sense of scriptural texts matched by such a supple sense of the practices and peculiarities of human beings engaged in the legal process.

Law and Wisdom in the Bible is classic Daube.

John T. Noonan Jr., United States Circuit Judge

With this reconstruction of David Daube’s second set of Gifford lectures, Calum Carmichael provides another treasure of reflections, in which Daube’s erudition, wit, and startling powers of observation open up the most fundamental questions with the lightest touch. What a surprise to learn, for example, that the only law in the Pentateuch with an explicitly imperative form is the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother; but surprise deepens into new insight as Daube begins to explore how the imperative, whose provenance is “wisdom” literature, has entered into the code of law, thus exemplifying the complex relation between these two aspects of biblical thought.

Rona Burger, Tulane University

David Daube was a great lecturer. Many of his lectures ended up as published articles. The Gifford Lectures that he gave at the University of Edinburgh in the spring of 1964 were not published as articles and appear here for the first time. Why these lectures did not appear as articles is clear enough from what we read here. These lectures have a coherent theme, one that demands presentation in a book. “Wisdom” in the Bible is not confined to what is sometimes called the “wisdom books” (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, and the deuterocanoncial book of Wisdom). “Wisdom,” in fact, appears as early as the commandment to honor one's father and mother; it is characteristic of Deuteronomy, and it is pervasive throughout what Christians call the Old and the New Testaments. For those who regard themselves as consumers rather than producers of Biblical scholarship the argument is clear, accessible, and persuasive. For those who read the Bible and are less familiar with the scholarship, there are marvelous insights into some familiar stories: the judgment of Solomon, Susanna and the Elders, the woman taken in adultery. Calum Carmichael has done a labor of love in rescuing these lectures from scattered and incomplete manuscripts (in a hand accessible to few) and typescripts transcribed from lost tapes by someone who was clearly having trouble understanding what was being said.

Professor Charles Donahue, Jr., Paul A. Freund Professor of Law, Harvard Law School