Konrad Schmid

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Religious Studies
Full Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism in the University of Zurich

Research project

Genesis of Normativity: Understanding the Development 
of the Normative Notion of “Law” in the Hebrew Bible


Law in western societies is commonly understood as comprising binding and normative texts. Historically speaking, however, this characterization is not appropriate for the beginnings of legal history. Rather the normativity of laws as texts has resulted from complex and extended historical and intellectual processes. The earliest written legal traditions, the great so-called “codices” of ancient Near Eastern law collections from ancient Mesopotamia, served primarily descriptive rather than normative functions. They do not contain rules for every life situation, but instead seem to be products of learned scribal training dealing mainly with complicated and extraordinary cases. The king—not texts—was the legal authority throughout ancient Near East. This was also likely the case for the earlier law collections in the Hebrew Bible originating in the monarchic period of ancient Israel. However, by the end of the literary and intellectual history of the formation of the Hebrew Bible, which extended over several centuries, the notion of a normative law had prevailed: the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) emerged as a binding text without the authoritative backing of a king. This project strives to elucidate the historical, intellectual, and cultural circumstances of the notion of normative legal texts by placing them the context of their historical genesis. Its aims are to understand the intellectual developments leading to the biblical concept of “law” as a binding text. The following areas are to be investigated during the project: (i) It will first provide a critical assessment of the history of scholarship on ancient Near Eastern and biblical law with a special focus on the question of its normativity and the problems of its social and legal enforcement. (ii) In a second step, the rhetorical outline of the legal portions of the Torah and its legal status in its Persian period environment shall be analyzed in order to understand its normative claims, but also the reality of its social and legal status. (iii) A third section shall investigate the possible historical factors that contributed to the development towards a normative notion of law. (iv) A final section will summarize the results and place them in the broader context of humanities and legal studies.



Konrad Schmid is Full Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism in the University of Zurich. He holds a Ph.D. and an Habilitation in Theology from the University of Zurich. 

Selected publications


‘The Canon and the Cult: The Emergence of Book Religion in Ancient Israel and the Gradual Sublimation of the Temple Cult’, Journal of Biblical Literature, vol.131, no.2, 2012, pp.289-305.


‘L’auto-compréhension des livres prophétiques comme literature de réécriture’, in C. Clivaz, C. Combet-Galland, J.-D. Macchi and C. Nihan (eds), Ecriture et réécriture, BEThL, vol.248, Leuven, 2012, pp.123-136. 


‘La formation de Neviim. Quelques observations sur la genèse rédactionnelle et les profils théologiques de Josué-Malachie’, in C. Nihan, J. D. Macchi, J. Rücklant et T. Römer (eds), Recueils prophétiques de la Bible, Genève, Labor et Fides, 2012, pp.115-142. 


‘The Deuteronomistic Image of History as Interpretive Device in the Second Temple Period: Towards a Long-Term Interpretation of «Deuteronomism»’, in M. Nissinen (ed.), Congress Volume, Helsinki, 2010, VT.S 148, Brill, Leiden 2012, pp.369–388. 


‘Genealogien der Moral. Prozesse fortschreitender ethischer Qualifizierung von Mensch und Welt im Alten Testament’, in H.G Nesselrath and F. Wilk (eds), Gut und Böse in Mensch und Welt, ORA, Tübingen, 2012, pp.1–20. 


‘Genesis in the Pentateuch’, in C.A. Evans, J. N. Lohr and D. L Petersen (eds), The Book of Genesis. Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, VT.S 152, Brill, Leiden, 2012, pp.27–50.


‘The Quest for ‘God’: Monotheistic Arguments in the Priestly Texts of the Hebrew Bible’, in B. Pongratz-Leisten (ed.), Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, 2011, pp.275–293.


‘Loss of Immortality? Hermeneutical Aspects of Genesis 2–3 and Its Early Receptions’, in K. Schmid and C. Riedweg (eds), Beyond Eden. The Biblical Story of Paradise and Its Reception History, FAT II/34, Mohr Siebeck , Tübingen, 2008, 58–78.


‘The Late Persian Formation of the Torah: Observations on Deuteronomy 34’, in O. Lipschits, G. N. Knoppers, and R. Albertz (eds), Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E., Eisenbrauns , Winona Lake, 2007, pp.236–245.


‘The Persian Imperial Authorization as Historical Problem and as Biblical Construct: A Plea for Differentiations in the Current Debate’, in G. N. Knoppers and B. M. Levinson (eds), The Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, 2007, pp.22–38.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History and Law
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Indian Philosophy and Intellectual History