“Take These Words”: The Abiding Lure of the Hebrew Bible in Itself

Perry Dane

Abstract: The Hebrew Bible is the shared text of Judaism and Christianity. Yet this canonical collection is also remarkable for the degree to which its significance in both faiths is filtered through later texts—the New Testament for Christians and the rabbinic corpus for Jews. Nevertheless, over the centuries, persons and movements in both faith traditions have repeatedly sought to reclaim the authority or meaning of the Hebrew Bible in itself, so to speak, alongside or instead of its traditional meaning, in the name of one or another restorationist, reforming, revisionist, or radical agenda. This hodgepodge of distinct but oddly similar voices suggests an abiding counter-story to the main trends of both Judaism and Christianity. This article surveys this recurring phenomenon and proposes some common themes. It then suggests some broader challenges and implica­tions for the Hebrew Bible’s place in Western culture and for the paradoxical nature of its authority.

Biography: Perry Dane is a Professor of Law at the Rutgers School of Law, Camden.  He was previously on the faculty of Yale Law School, and served as a law clerk to William J. Brennan, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. 
Professor Dane is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.  His interests include the jurisprudence of Jewish law, religion and law, conflict of laws, constitutional law, jurisdiction, American Indian law, legal pluralism, comparative constitutionalism, and the debate on same-sex marriage.  His work on Jewish legal theory includes “The Yoke of Heaven, the Question of Sinai, and the Life of Law” in the University of Toronto Law Journal and “The Oral Law and the Jurisprudence of a Textless Text” in S’vara: A Journal of Philosophy, Law, and Judaism.  During 2010-11, Professor Dane will be a resident fellow at the Tikvah Center for Law & Jewish Civilization at New York University.

Volume 4, Number 3 (Summer 2009) pp. 230–265