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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay applies Emile Durkheim’s category of “repressive law” to the laws dealing with purity and sancta desecration in the Hebrew Bible. Specifically, this chapter seeks to develop Durkheim’s insight by viewing these laws as an expression of the “collective conscience.” More broadly, it is shown how the biblical materials, when viewed in the light of contemporary legal theory, can offer a fascinating historical perspective for reflection on the relation between morality and law and their psychological and sociological foundations. As a test case, the final section of the paper brings these ancient texts to bear on the debate in modern legal theory regarding retribution.

Keywords: Emile Durkheim, taboo, purity, impurity, pollution, desecration, retribution, punishment, sacred, holiness

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