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Friday, November 24, 2017

Reviews of God, Justice and Society

September 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Jonathan Burnside’s God, Justice and Society is a real tour de force in the area of biblical law. With material that is so foundational for understanding the history of legal construction, it is amazing that such a paucity of literature exists on this subject, not to mention the absence of an entire handbook that gathers what has been produced thus far in an irenic, but provocative and thoughtful way. Legal historians, as well as biblical scholars, will remain in his debt for years to come as this book sets the mark for excellence in this field. I heartily endorse this project and congratulate Dr. Burnside and Oxford University Press USA on its courage in producing such a key volume for many of the legal and ethical discussions currently underway.”

–          PROF. WALTER C. KAISER, JR. COLMAN M. MOCKLER EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF BIBLICAL LAW AND OLD TESTAMENT AND PRESIDENT EMERITUS, GORDON-CONWELL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

“In this well-researched book, Jonathan Burnside gives a detailed and yet accessible account of the nature of biblical law, its interpretation and operation in biblical Israel. In comparing biblical and modern English approaches to a range of legal subjects, he draws on the former to challenge the latter. He succeeds in making a convincing case for the contemporary relevance of the study of biblical law. This is a book which deserves to inform and provoke legal, sociological and theological debate.”

–        SIR ROGER TOULSON, LORD JUSTICE OF APPEAL, THE COURT OF APPEAL, HER MAJESTY’S COURTS SERVICE

“This is a first-rate vade mecum for students of law wishing to relate modern legal concepts to biblical legal principles. A series of areas of central, contemporary importance are discussed from a biblical perspective in substantial chapters rich in detail and explanation, in which the supralegal function of biblical law as ‘wisdom’ and as visionary in what it holds out to humanity emerges most clearly. The focus is principally on the Bible (both Testaments), but Burnside weaves in insights from ancient near eastern legal traditions and postbiblical texts (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls) along the way. Lawyers are used to handling heavy tomes; this sizeable introduction and its challenge to legal positivism should command a wide and appreciative readership.”

–          ROBERT P. GORDON, REGIUS PROFESSOR OF HEBREW, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

“Just when modern law, swayed by the ethos of contractual mutual indifference and the myth of value-neutrality, is being emptied of spiritual and moral content, Burnside’s God, Justice and Society comes as a timely challenge for us to rethink the whole purpose of law in society. This book is absolutely refreshing, for it opens our eyes, long blinded by modern bias, to the imaginativeness, wisdom and holistic approach of biblical law for providing the optimal conditions of life and freedom for all.”

–          PROF. CARVER T. YU, PRESIDENT, CHINA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

“This is a sophisticated piece of interdisciplinary work integrating legal study and Christian theology. On the one hand, Jonathan Burnside offers an insightful analysis on the relevance of biblical law to contemporary societies. On the other hand, he provides a critical perspective for believers of Christianity to rethink their religious precepts. Reading the book brings great benefit to my vocation as a Christian teacher and researcher in law. A reflective understanding on both my religious faith and my academic discipline is being brewed.”

–          BENNY Y. T. TAI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

“Jonathan Burnside, a ‘lawyer among the theologians’, has brought together a rich feast of jurisprudence and theology built on the biblical text in a uniquely helpful way.  With clarity, scholarship and humour, he brings alive vast tracts of biblical law and skilfully relates the ‘then’ of the Ancient Near East to the ‘now’ of the contemporary world in a fresh and gripping way. As a serving judge I found my heart warmed, my mind stretched and my vocation affirmed in this fascinating and detailed analysis of the Bible’s grand themes of law, wisdom and the unsurpassed greatness of the God of justice.”

–          HIS HONOUR JUDGE DAVID TURNER QC, CIRCUIT JUDGE, LONDON

“Jonathan Burnside’s book is a brilliant introduction to biblical law, written in a clear and pedagogical style. It is suitable for both beginner and advanced student. Wide-ranging and detailed it draws from the Bible and its Ancient Near Eastern environment, from Greco-Roman law to present day jurisprudence, from the covenantal-relational dynamic of biblical law to its current challenges and critique in our contemporary, multicultural and postmodern world. It is refreshing, unequalled and unrivalled.”

–          DR. ALOO OSOTSI MOJOLA, TRANSLATION CONSULTANT, UNITED BIBLE SOCIETIES, AFRICA AREA

God, Justice, and Society is an ambitious work that brings to the study of biblical law a rich, sensitive understanding of the cultural, linguistic, and theological landscape in which Biblical law was developed.  The result is a work of such depth and insight that it will be at the center of academic discussion for decades to come. The book will not be welcomed by the ideologues engaged in making biblical law into what they wish it to be. This is precisely what recommends this well-written text. It navigates the full breadth of biblical law by examining, among other subjects, the minefield of sexual offences. It enlarges the scope of biblical law by seeing what it means when we consider its impact on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This book will provoke, illumine, and inspire.  It is the essence of what good scholarship ought to do, and which is why it is a candidate for becoming the definitive 21st century treatment of the subject.”

REV. DALE S. KUEHNE, PH.D., THE RICHARD L. BREADY CHAIR IN ETHICS, ECONOMICS, AND THE COMMON GOOD, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE,

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Comments

One Response to “Reviews of God, Justice and Society”
  1. Darius Lee says:

    Good day Dr. Burnside,

    My name is Darius Lee, and I am a third year Law student at the National University of Singapore. I have read your book, God, Justice and Society, and have been greatly blessed by your insights into Biblical Law.

    Having read your book, I am deeply convinced that Sinai and divine law is not something legislated out of the blue, but evident from Eden itself. However, there is one particularly vexing area with regard to Biblical Law: the prohibition against incest in Leviticus 18 and 20. This appears to contradict the idea of natural law, when one takes into account the question of how Adam and Eve’s children procreated (possible intermarriage between siblings), the story of Abraham and Sarah (half-brother and half-sister), and, possibly, the incident between Lot and his daughters (father and daughters).

    I would suggest that there are three possible solutions, although I find these solutions unsatisfactory:
    (1) A qualification on natural law: the prohibition against incest was only legislated later. This is unsatisfactory because it is too positivistic. Taking the argument further, this view may also lead one to suggest that homosexuality and bestiality are also not contrary to natural law, given that they are treated similarly by Leviticus 18 and 20.
    (2) A qualification on the prohibition against incest: the prohibition against incest is subject to “necessity”. However, there is no Biblical authority for this.
    (3) The assertion that God created spouses for the children of Adam and Eve, such as Cain, Seth and their other children. Once again, there is no Biblical authority for this.

    How does the prohibition against incest therefore square with natural law?

    Thank you.

    God bless,
    Darius.

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