Friday, 14 January 2011

Jonathan Burnside on God, Justice, and Society

Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), xl + 542pp., ISBN 9780199779413.

I have received from the Jubilee Centre a special paperback edition (available only via the Jubilee Centre) of this massive book from Jonathan Burnside, Reader in Biblical Law at the School of Law, University of Bristol, England.

The blurb on the Jubilee Centre website says that the book:

• Explores the subject of biblical law, which is foundational for understanding Western civilisation and the history of Western law

• Discusses how biblical law works in relation to different areas including the environment, property, social welfare, homicide, theft, and marriage

• Challenges popular misunderstandings about the story of Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, as well as the interpretation of specific verses such as ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’

I was wondering how the book would engage with Chris Wright’s work on Old Testament ethics, but (curiously) I can see no mention of him in the index or the (very full) bibliography. Even so, I’ll be interested to see how someone with academic expertise in law and criminology approaches the legal material in the Old Testament.

The book is huge, but (from a quick glance) looks highly readable. I will probably work my way through it slowly during the course of the year.

A supporting website (Seek Justice) contains a downloadable study guide, podcasts and lots of other free resources.

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