Bernard M. Levinson

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Religious Studies
Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and of Law at the University of Minnesota, Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible

Research project

Revelation and Redaction: Rethinking the Role of 
Intellectual Models in Biblical Studies


Revelation and Redaction examines the origins and cultural significance of the ancient Israelite concept of divine revelation. The study also investigates the intellectual history of academic biblical studies over the last two centuries: its methodological assumptions, the ways it constructs its intellectual models, and how those models control what is seen and not seen in the act of reading. 

Previous studies imagine revelation as an act of divine self-disclosure: an event (theophany) that took place prior to and independent of the scriptural text. To gain access to the text’s alleged historical kernel, these scholars attempt to remove the redactional overlay of later tradition, like so many weeds from a garden. This positivistic model is driven by assumptions about religious experience and the nature of authorship that originate in nineteenth century European Romanticism, the context in which German biblical scholarship became dominant. This approach, which is inconsistent with the way authors worked with texts in antiquity, fails to do justice to the literary and intellectual sophistication of the biblical corpus. Rather than assume a binary opposition between revelation and redaction, original and secondary, author and editor, I propose a more complex hermeneutic: These texts represent the redactional compositions of anonymous scribes and editors who edit, reuse, and reinterpret older sources while claiming continuity with the religious traditions that they sought to transform or displace. Working before any cultural value was attached to named authorship, the composers of these texts denied their own agency and ascribed their creative handiwork to divine revelation. 

To develop the methodological controls for this project, I draw upon both cuneiform literature of the ancient Near East and the exegetical literature of the multiple “Judaisms” of the post-biblical period (including the Dead Sea Scrolls). This material offers a rich spectrum of empirical models for considering how authors and redactors worked with texts in antiquity. The resulting book will bring biblical studies as a philological discipline concerned with antiquity into dialogue with debates currently taking place in the humanities about the history of authorship, canon formation, and the nature of literary originality.



Bernard M. Levinson is a Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and of Law at the University of Minnesota, where he holds the Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible. He earned a Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, Waltham (Boston). His research focuses on biblical and cuneiform law, textual reinterpretation in the Second Temple period, and the relation of the Bible to Western intellectual history. The interdisciplinary significance of his work has been recognized with appointments to the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton (1997); the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2007); and the National Humanities Center (2010).

Selected publications


The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the Academic Discourses of Europe, Israel, and North America, with J. Gertz, D. Rom-Shiloni & K. Schmid (eds),  Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2016 (in progress).


'Refining the Reconstruction of Col. 2 of the Temple Scroll (11QTa): The Turn to Digital Mapping and Historical Syntax', Dead Sea Discoveries: A Journal of Current Research on the Scrolls and Related Literature, vol. 23, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–26.


'A Post-Priestly Harmonization in the Flood Narrative', in F. Giuntoli & K. Schmid (eds), The Post-Priestly Pentateuch: New Perspectives on Its Redactional Development and Theological Profiles, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2015, pp. 113–23.


'Einführung in das Buch Dewarim / Deuteronomium',  in W. Homolka, H. Liss 1 R. Liwak (eds), Tora. Mit Haftarot (hebräisch-deutsch) in der revidierten Übersetzung Ludwig Philippsons mit Einleitungen in die Fünf Bücher Mose und die Prophetenlesungen, Herder, Freiburg, 2015, pp. 680–694.


'Law and Legal Literature in Ancient Israel', with T. M. Sherman,  in S. Niditch (ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2015, pp. 394–412.


A More Perfect Torah: At the Intersection of Philology and Hermeneutics in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll, Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible, vol. 1, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, 2013. 


Der kreative Kanon: Innerbiblische Schriftauslegung und religionsgeschichtlicher Wandel im alten Israel, Mohr Siebeck , Tübingen, 2012. 


Fino alla quarta generazione: Revisione di leggi e rinnovamento religioso nell’Israele antico, Gregorian University and Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, Rome, 2012.


‘Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaty as the Source for the Canon Formula in Deuteronomy 13:1’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 130, 2011, pp. 337–347.


Revisão legal e renovação religiosa no Antigo Israel, Paulus Editora, São Paulo, 2011.


Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008; paperback edition, 2010. 


“The Right Chorale”: Studies in Biblical Law and Interpretation, Forschungen zum Alten Testament, vol. 54, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2008.


L’Herméneutique de l’innovation: Canon et exégèse dans l’Israël biblique, Le livre et le rouleau, vol. 24, Éditions Lessius, Brussels, 2005.


‘The First Constitution: Rethinking the Origins of Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in Light of Deuteronomy’, Cardozo Law Review, vol. 27, no. 4, 2006, pp. 1853–1888.


Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1997.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Art History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Law
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Mathematics