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Bernard M. Levinson

Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and of Law

Bernard M. Levinson

245 Nicholson Hall (Classical & Near Eastern Studies)




York University, Toronto, B.A.
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, M.A.
Brandeis University, Ph.D.

Professor Bernard M. Levinson is Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and of Law at the University of Minnesota and holds the Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible. His research focuses on Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern studies, specializing in biblical and cuneiform law (including the role of the ancient Near East in the emergence of constitutional thought); Deuteronomy and the history of interpretation; and literary approaches to biblical studies.

Professor Levinson teaches graduate courses in "Biblical Law and Jewish Ethics" and "Scripture and Interpretation in Israelite Religion and Judaism." He is on the editorial boards of Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte, Orientalia Biblica et Christiana, International Commentary on the Old Testament, and Journal of Ancient Judaism. He presents regularly at national and international conferences.

Professor Levinson received his B.A. degree in English and Intellectual History with First Class Honors in 1974 from York University in Toronto. He earned a M.A. degree in Religious Studies from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1991. He was a Visiting Scholar at the School of Theology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz/Germany (1992-93). The interdisciplinary significance of his work has been recognized with appointments to the Institute for Advanced Study; the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin/Berlin Institute for Advanced Study; and the National Humanities Center. Most recently, he spent the 2012–2013 academic year at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, where he co-directed an international research team on a project entitled "Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America, and Europe."


Professor Levinson also maintains a personal Web page.



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. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Paperback, 2010.
Biblia Hebraica review
Review of Biblical Literature

Der kreative Kanon: Innerbiblische Schriftauslegung und religionsgeschichtlicher Wandel im alten Israel. Introduction by Prof. Dr. Hermann Spieckermann. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.

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

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

"The Right Chorale": Studies in Biblical Law and Interpretation, Forschungen zum Alten Testament 54; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Paperback edition, Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011.
Biblia Hebraica review
Review of Biblical Literature

L’herméneutique de l’innovation: Canon et exégèse dans l’Israël biblique. Introduction by Jean Louis Ska. Le livre et le rouleau 24. Brussels: Editions Lessius, 2006.
Review of Biblical Literature

Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (1997, pbk. 2002) (Winner of the 1999 Salo W. Baron Award for Best First Book in Literature and Thought from the American Academy for Jewish Research)

Edited Volumes

The Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance, Gary Knoppers, co-editor. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2007.
Australian Biblical Review

Judge and Society in Antiquity, edited with Aaron Skaist, special double issue of MAARAV: A Journal for the Study of the Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures 12.1–2 (2005).

Recht und Ethik im Alten Testament: Studies in Honor of Gerhard von Rad (ed. with Eckart Otto, 2004).
Review of Biblical Literature

Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (ed. with Victor H. Matthews & Tikva Frymer-Kensky, 1998).
Review of Biblical Literature

Theory and Method in Biblical and Cuneiform Law (ed. 1994).


"Deuteronomy," in The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Michael D. Coogan. ed., 2000, 2010).

"Deuteronomy," in The Jewish Study Bible (Adele Berlin & Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., 2003).

Articles and Book Chapters

"La scoperta goethiana della versione 'originale' dei Dieci Comandamenti e la sua influenza sulla critica biblica: Il mito del particolarismo ebraico e dell'universalismo tedesco." Pages 71–90 in Il roveto ardente: Scritti sull’ebraismo Tedesco in memoria di Francesca Y. Albertini. Edited by Irene Kajon. Rome: Lithos Editrice, 2013.

"The Limitations of 'Resonance.' A Response to Joshua Berman on Historical and Comparative Method." (Co-author: Jeffrey Stackert). Journal of Ancient Judaism 4 (2013): 310–333.

"'This is the Manner of the Remission': Legal Exegesis and Eschatological Syntax in 11QMelchizedek." (Co-author: Michael Bartos). Journal of Biblical Literature 132 (2013): 351-371.

"Between the Covenant Code and Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty: Deuteronomy 13 and the Composition of Deuteronomy." (Co-author: Jeffrey Stackert). Journal of Ancient Judaism 3 (2012): 123–140.

"Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty as the Source for the Canon Formula in Deuteronomy 13:1." Journal of the American Oriental Society 130 (2011): 337–347.

"The King James Bible at 400: Scripture, Statecraft, and the American Founding." (Co-author: Joshua A. Berman). The History Channel Magazine, special supplement, November 2010, pp. 1–11.

"Deuteronomy." Pages 192–209 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Review of Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologian and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Co-authored with Tina Sherman. Review of Biblical Literature (2010). PDF

"The Bible's Break with Ancient Political Thought to Promote Equality-'It Ain't Necessarily so.'" A review article of Joshua Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought. The Journal of Theological Studies 61:2 (2010). Online advance access: doi: 10.1093/jts/flg048. PDF

The Neo-Assyrian Origins of the Canon Formula in Deuteronomy 13:1, in Scriptural Exegesis: The Shapes of Culture and the Religious Imagination (Essays in Honour of Michael Fishbane). Edited by Deborah A. Green and Laura Lieber. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church, in Interpretation 62:3 (July, 2008): 238–53.

"The First Constitution: Rethinking the Origins of Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in Light of Deuteronomy," in Cardozo Law Review 27:4 (2006): 1853–1888.

'Du sollst nichts hinzufügen und nichts wegnehmen' (Dtn 13,1): Rechtsreform und Hermeneutik in der Hebräischen Bibel," in Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 102 (2006): 157–183.

The Manumission of Hermeneutics: The Slave Laws of the Pentateuch as a Challenge to Contemporary Pentateuchal Theory, in Congress Volume Leiden 2004. Edited by André Lemaire. Vetus Testamentum Supplements 109. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2006, 281–324.

Deuteronomy's Conception of Law as an 'Ideal Type': A Missing Chapter in the History of Constitutional Law, in Judge and Society in Antiquity. Edited by Bernard M. Levinson and Aaron Skaist = Maarav: A Journal for the Study of the Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures 12:1–2 (2005): 83–119.

The Birth of the Lemma: Recovering the Restrictive Interpretation of the Covenant Code's Manumission Law by the Holiness Code (Lev 25:44–46), Journal of Biblical Literature 124 (2005): 617–639.

Is the Covenant Code an Exilic Composition? A Response to John Van Seters, in In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (John L. Day, ed., 2004).

The Metamorphosis of Law into Gospel: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church (with Douglas Dance), in Recht und Ethik im Alten Testament (Bernard M. Levinson & Eckart Otto, eds., 2004).

You Must Not Add Anything to What I Command You: Paradoxes of Canon and Authorship in Ancient Israel, in 50:1 Numen: International Review for the History of Religions (2003).

Revelation Regained: The Hermeneutics of יכ and םא in the Temple Scroll (with Molly M. Zahn), in Dead Sea Discoveries: A Journal of Current Research on the Scrolls and Related Literature 9:3 (2002) 295–346.

Goethe's Analysis of Exodus 34 and Its Influence on Julius Wellhausen: The Pfropfung of the Documentary Hypothesis, in Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 114 (2002) 212-23.

The Seductions of the Garden: The Genesis of Hermeneutics as Critique, in On Interpretation: Studies in Culture, Law, and the Sacred = 5 Graven Images 95 (2002).

The Reconceptualization of Kingship in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic Historys Transformation of Torah, 51 Vetus Testamentum 511 (2001).

Textual Criticism, Assyriology, and the History of Interpretation: Deuteronomy 13:7a as a Test Case in Method, 120 Journal of Biblical Literature 211 (2001).

The Hermeneutics of Tradition in Deuteronomy, in 119 Journal of Biblical Literature 296 (2000).

The Covenant at Mount Sinai: The Argument of Revelation, in The Jewish Political Tradition, Vol. 1: Authority, (2000) (Michael Walzer et al., eds.).

Biblical Law, Reader's Guide to Judaism, (2000).

Journal of Near Eastern Studies (reviewing Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (2000).

Recovering the Lost Original Meaning of וילע הסכת אלו (Deuteronomy 13:9), in 115 Journal of Biblical Literature 601 (1996).

'But You Shall Surely Kill Him!': The Text-Critical and Neo-Assyrian Evidence for MT Deuteronomy 13:10, in Bundesdokument und Gesetz: Studien zum Deuteronomium (Georg Braulik, ed., 1995).

The Case for Revision and Interpolation within the Biblical Legal Corpora, in Theory and Method in Biblical and Cuneiform Law: Revision, Interpolation and Development (Bernard M. Levinson, ed., 1994).

The Human Voice in Divine Revelation: The Problem of Authority in Biblical Law, in Innovation in Religious Traditions: Essays in the Interpretation of Religious Change (Michael A. Williams, et al., eds., 1992).

'The Right Chorale': From the Poetics of Biblical Narrative to the Hermeneutics of the Hebrew Bible, in "Not in Heaven": Coherence and Complexity in Biblical Narrative (Jason P. Rosenblatt & Joseph C. Sitterson, eds., 1991).

Calum M. Carmichael's Approach to the Laws of Deuteronomy, in 83 Harvard Theological Review 227 (1990).

The Case for Grounding Biblical Hermeneutics upon the Diachronic Method, in Literary Theory and Biblical Hermeneutics (Tibor Fabiny, ed., 1992).

McConville's Law and Theology in Deuteronomy, in 80 Jewish Quarterly Review 396 (1990).


Biblical Law & Jewish Ethics (LAW 6916)
This course investigates the emergence of law and ethics from ancient Mesopotomia, through ancient Israel, into early Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Topics treated include the notion of "person" as a legal and ethical category; the concept of human agency; the distinction between person and chattel; and the distinctive role played by legal hermeneutics in the formation of culture.

Scripture & Interpretation in Israelite Religion and Judaism
Description: Students are asked to study the notion of divine revelation and its impact upon religion, literature, and law. Topics discussed include the concept of the canonical tradition; the role of interpretation of an authoritative text; and the debates about constitutional legal hermeneutics and "originalism."

Bible: Context and Interpretation
Description: An introduction to the modern academic study of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the historical context of literature from ancient Mesopotamia, Canaan (Ugarit), and Israel. Readings concern the stories of creation, law, epic conflict, and conquest within Near Eastern and biblical legal texts.

Prophecy in Ancient Israel
Description: This course traces the development of prophecy in ancient Israel within the larger context of ancient Near Eastern history and culture. Students will evaluate the effects prophecy had on politics and law in Ancient Israel and view prophecy cross-culturally through textual analysis. Students will focus on the social, political, and religious concerns of the prophets, noting their origin in biblical law and covenant ideology.


Prof. Levinson's latest book, A More Perfect Torah: At the Intersection of Philology and Hermeneutics in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll, published in 2013 by Eisenbrauns, investigates the relationship between the composition history of the biblical text and its reception history at Qumran and in rabbinic literature. Current projects under way include a translation and commentary on Goethe's Zwo wichtige bisher unerörterte biblische Fragen . . . [1773] and a volume for the Anchor Bible Reference Library, which he is co-authoring with Jeffrey Stackert.

Prof. Levinson was named a 2010-2013 Scholar of the College, awarded in honor of his outstanding achievement in the College of Liberal Arts. In the spring of 2010, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research, the oldest professional organization of Judaica scholars in North America.