Judaism Lecture – Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
56th Annual Free Public Lecture
Bernard M. Levinson, Professor at University of Minnesota
“‘You Must Not Add Anything to What I Command You’: Paradoxes of Canon and Authorship in Ancient Israel”
at the AT & T Lounge in the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison

Professor Bernard M. Levinson will present a free public lecture entitled, “‘You Must Not Add Anything To What I Command You’: Paradoxes of Canon And Authorship in Ancient Israel.” Professor Levinson’s lecture addresses how Israel, having a tradition of prestigious or authoritative texts, dealt with the problem of literary and legal innovation. By comparing scribal practices in ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform law, he shows how ancient Israel’s development of the idea of divine revelation of law that might have been expected to impede legal revision or amendment tolerated modification through exegetical innovation.

As a test-case, Professor Levinson begins with the concept of divine punishment in the Decalogue: the idea that God punishes sinners transgenerationally, vicariously extending the punishment due one generation to three or four generations of their progeny. A series of inner-biblical and post-biblical response to the rule demonstrates, however, that later writers were able to criticize, reject, and replace it with the alternative notion of individual retribution. The lecture’s conclusions stress the extent to which the formative canon sponsors this kind of critical reflection and intellectual freedom.

This lecture is sponsored by University Lectures Committee and the Department of Hebrew & Semitic Studies with the generous support of the Ettinger Family Foundation; co-sponsored by the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions. For more information, please contact the Department of Hebrew & Semitic Studies, email  hebrew@mailplus.wisc.edu

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