Some of the Other Works of the Torah
In this dissertation, I explore the metaphorical value of law in the Hebrew Bible and Hellenistic Jewish literature. While the study of biblical law and Hellenistic Jewish halakah is well established, less attention has been paid to the intentional use of legal diction to create legal metaphors—metaphors that draw upon legal language for the sake of generating new ethical and theological insights. My argument is based upon Roger White’s theory of metaphor which states that a metaphor juxtaposes two otherwise unrelated vocabularies in order to produce new meaning. Thus, I draw upon comparative study of ancient Near Eastern law as a means of understanding the register of biblical Hebrew legal diction concerning land tenure and inheritance. With the legal background established, I investigate three sets of metaphors, one drawn from the prohibition against violating established property boundaries and two drawn from the legal domain of inheritance: the inheritance of wisdom and the inheritance of glory. These legal metaphors demonstrate the profitability of attending to legal diction. The boundary metaphor demonstrates that when attempting to describe the good or virtuous life, law served not only to provide a description of obligations, it also shaped the way in which early Jewish communities understood reality itself. The inheritance of wisdom metaphors demonstrate that sophisticated comparisons could be drawn between legal concepts and scribal learning, particularly when wisdom was thought of as a document. The inheritance of glory metaphors demonstrate the way in which semantic shifting impacts the meaning of a metaphor.