Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Gifts of the Jews

In his popular history, The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill contends that one of the gifts imparted to human civilization by the Jews was their notion of justice. It was, though, an idea of justice intertwined with mercy. Mercy is essential to the administration of justice in the realm of human experience because Torah not only conceded but also explicitly taught the fallen state of humans.

Thus, while lex talionis requires “a life for a life,” the Jews were prohibited by Torah from implementing this principle of punishment upon the evidence of only one witness to an alleged intentional, “treacherous” killing of another human being. Rather, Torah requires the testimony of at least two witnesses.

Some argue that lex talionis is not, in the first place, a Jewish concept but was rather a contribution from the ancient Babylonian civilization via the Code of Hammurabi. Even if this point of history is conceded for the sake of argument, Torah’s expression and guidance in the administration of lex talionis demonstrates a substantial tempering of its severity in application albeit not in its formulation.

Justice, as it is taught in Torah, is both an affirmation of the dignity of every human being based upon Imago Dei and an accommodation for the finitude and fallen state of humans. Torah teaches mercy in the midst of justice through its accounts of divine acts in response to human sin (e.g. Cain, Noah, and Lot) as well as in its provisions for both procedural and substantive criminal law in ancient Israel.

I am just beginning to formulate my expression of these ideas. I intend to develop a more thorough thesis in coming weeks. In the meantime, I would value your responses.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Redeeming Law at Rethinking Worldview

I knew there was a reason that Mark Bertrand is my favorite blogger! Over at his wonderful Rethinking Worldview, he has posted some kind words about my new book Redeeming Law. And at, where he writes with grace and wisdom on all things literary and cultural, he has more nice things to say. Thanks, Mark.

I have mentioned Mark's forthcoming book already in passing (Aug 28, below), but I want to be sure that readers know that it's out this week. I've pre-ordered my copy. Have you? More on Rethinking Worldview as we sink our teeth into it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Welcome to Justitia Blog

I want to thank Becky Perry, Jeff Gissing, Cordell Schulten, and Tom Folsom for agreeing to help "staff" the Justitia Blog. Each brings a unique background and perspective on law and culture, and I look forward to hearing from them in the months to come.

Becky is a journalist who is beginning her legal career at one of the nation's elite law schools. Cordell is a lawyer and professor who works with lawyers as a Christian Legal Society chaplain. Jeff works with grad students full time, and Tom is a law professor. I respect these friends and consider them wise disciples of Jesus. I'm grateful for their participation.

I hope to announce more partners as the Justitia blog grows.