The Genesis of Justice Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law
Alan M. Dershowitz (Warner: Mar 1, 2000), 288 pages.
Dershowitz 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. ~ Publishers Weekly
Harvard law professor Dershowitz has written a dazzling and stimulating commentary on ten Old Testament stories and how they provide the origins for today's laws. In a familiar style that evokes being in a small seminar with the professor, Dershowitz takes ten biblical stories, including those of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Lot, and offers multiple views on their application today. His view is that the Book of Genesis reveals the origins of justice in society. Ranging over such topics as the insanity defense, police corruption, federal sentencing guidelines, and the defense of the guilty, the book provokes the reader to consider God's fairness as well as that of our current justice system. In the best Socratic tradition, Dershowitz (Reversal of Fortune) asks many questions and provides multiple scholarly and commonsense views of the lessons to be learned from the biblical tales. He ends the book with a discussion of the Ten Commandments and shows how they can be traced to the stories of Genesis. For believers of all faiths, as well as nonbelievers, this is an outstanding work. ~ Harry Charles for Library Journal