The Genesis of Justice: Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law

Alan M. Dershowitz, Author Warner Books $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-446-52479-7
A Harvard Law School faculty member since 1964, Dershowitz is noted for representing controversial and unpopular clients. In addition to tomes on the law and two novels, he wrote a 1987 book prescribing a remedy to save American Jews (The Vanishing American Jew). In this further demonstration of his versatility, he turns to 10 stories from Genesis to demonstrate how the Bible provides a basis for contemporary ideas about justice and injustice. The narratives deal with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Dina, Tamar and Joseph. Dershowitz includes a translation of each story, recounts some theological commentaries and offers his own interpretations. He acknowledges the failings of the biblical characters, pointing out that they were guilty of deception, lust, crime, incest, revenge and murder. Their problematic actions highlighted the need for the laws that appear later in the Torah, starting with Exodus and the Ten Commandments. The book concludes with four chapters on ""The Genesis of Justice in the Injustice of Genesis."" Dershowitz argues that the ""bad actions"" depicted in Genesis gave rise to the ""common law of justice."" He addresses the question of theodicy, claiming that the belief in the hereafter solves the problem of why evil exists on earth. Finally, he asserts that the stories he has examined explain the need for judicial codes. The book makes an important contribution by clearly validating this claim, although Dershowitz disregards the stories' significance as a basis for moral and ethical development. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
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