Book Launch: The Laws of Hammurabi

Please join us for the exciting Zoom book launch of The Laws of Hammurabi: at the Confluence of Royal & Scribal Traditions - with Author, Pamela Barmash and Guest Speaker, Bruce Wells

The Laws of Hammurabi is one of the earliest law codes, dating from the eighteenth century BCE Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq). It is the culmination of a tradition in which scribes would demonstrate their legal flair by composing statutes on a repertoire of traditional cases, articulating what they deemed just and fair. The book describes how the scribe of the Laws of Hammurabi advanced beyond earlier scribes in composing statutes that manifest systematization and implicit legal principles. The scribe inserted the statutes into the structure of a royal inscription, skillfully reshaping the genre. This approach allowed the king to use the law code to demonstrate that Hammurabi had fulfilled the mandate to guarantee justice enjoined upon him by the gods, affirming his authority as king. This tradition of scribal improvisation on a set of traditional cases continued outside of Mesopotamia, influencing biblical law and the law of the Hittite Empire and perhaps shaping Greek and Roman law. The Laws of Hammurabi is also a witness to the start of another stream of intellectual tradition. It became a classic text and the subject of formal commentaries, marking a Copernican revolution in intellectual culture.

Author, Pamela Barmash, PhD (Professor of Hebrew Bible & Biblical Hebrew in the Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies at Washington University in St. Louis)  has published widely on biblical and ancient Near Eastern law and on history and memory.  Barmash teaches courses on modern perspectives on the Bible, law and justice, mythology, the problem of evil, traditional Scriptural interpretation, and biblical and ancient Jewish history, culture, and religion.

Guest Speaker, Bruce Wells, PhD (Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin) specializes in the study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Wells is the author of The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes (2004), co-author (with Raymond Westbrook) of Everyday Law in Biblical Israel (2009), and co-author (with F. Rachel Magdalene and Cornelia Wunsch) of Fault, Responsibility, and Administrative Law in Late Babylonian Legal Texts (2019).

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