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Genesis Of Justice Paperback – 18 May 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Import US; New Ed edition (18 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446676772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446676779
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,290,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Would you give a young person a book whose heroes cheat, lie, steal, murder-and get away with it? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Sep 2004
Format: Hardcover
Never underestimate Alan Dershowitz. That's a lesson I learned when I was a student of his at Harvard Law School. Just when it seemed like he was cornered, with his argument tattered to ribbons, he would emerge with a counterargument that depended on his first argument being devasted. He had just successfully set-up the other professor (who shall remain nameless here) once again. Since then, I have seen him use the same strategy successfully time and again in many of his most famous cases. He has the nerve to skirt the edge of defeat to grasp victory.
So I was not surprised to see that having taken on the Book of Genesis as his client that a similar strategy prevails here. The book is based on his successful seminar on the same subject which he has recently been teaching at Harvard.
He does a marvelous job of taking a religious text and examining it as a source of legal precedent both in sacred and secular terms. Few would have the nerve, but your understanding of Genesis will be greatly improved as a result. He encourages you, as well as his students, to bring your own religious beliefs to the discussion. He proposes no official interpretations, and shares a diversity of opinions from learned Rabbis and religious thinkers of the Christian and Moslem faiths. In each case, he also shares his own interpretation. If you are like me, you will not always agree with him, but you will be interested to know what he concludes. He undertakes his inquiry in the spirit of a disputatious Hebrew school student who earned rebukes for his impertinent questions about where Cain's wife came from. He also draws from the Jewish tradition of encouraging the faithful to study the texts for their meaning.
He clearly confronts the contradictions within Genesis through examining 10 stories, one per chapter.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Leo on 19 July 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is essential reading for anyone living in a society based on the Judeo-Christian set of ethics. It's a nice reminder of some rather well known bible stories and gives some very interesting interpretations of what happened in them - and why.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 40 reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Dershowitz in Defense of Injustice in Genesis 3 Sep 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Never underestimate Alan Dershowitz. That's a lesson I learned when I was a student of his at Harvard Law School. Just when it seemed like he was cornered, with his argument tattered to ribbons, he would emerge with a counterargument that depended on his first argument being devasted. He had just successfully set-up the other professor (who shall remain nameless here) once again. Since then, I have seen him use the same strategy successfully time and again in many of his most famous cases. He has the nerve to skirt the edge of defeat to grasp victory.
So I was not surprised to see that having taken on the Book of Genesis as his client that a similar strategy prevails here. The book is based on his successful seminar on the same subject which he has recently been teaching at Harvard.
He does a marvelous job of taking a religious text and examining it as a source of legal precedent both in sacred and secular terms. Few would have the nerve, but your understanding of Genesis will be greatly improved as a result. He encourages you, as well as his students, to bring your own religious beliefs to the discussion. He proposes no official interpretations, and shares a diversity of opinions from learned Rabbis and religious thinkers of the Christian and Moslem faiths. In each case, he also shares his own interpretation. If you are like me, you will not always agree with him, but you will be interested to know what he concludes. He undertakes his inquiry in the spirit of a disputatious Hebrew school student who earned rebukes for his impertinent questions about where Cain's wife came from. He also draws from the Jewish tradition of encouraging the faithful to study the texts for their meaning.
He clearly confronts the contradictions within Genesis through examining 10 stories, one per chapter. In the story of Adam and Eve and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Professor Dershowitz emphasizes that God changes the deal. Having told Adam that he would die if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam goes on to live quite a long life. Having never told Eve not to eat from the tree, God punishes her with pain of childbirth and expulsion also. He describes God as having erred in dealing with Adam and Eve. You'll have to decide for yourself what your interpretation is. The title of the chapter is "God Threatens -- and Backs Down."
Here are the rest of the first 10 chapter titles. They give you a sense of the argument that Professor Dershowitz is building:
Cain Murders -- and Walks
God Overreacts -- and Floods the World
Abraham Defends the Guilty -- and Loses
Lot's Daughters Rape Their Father -- and Save the World
Abraham Commits Attempted Murder -- and Is Praised
Jacob Deceives -- and Gets Deceived
Dina Is Raped -- and Her Brothers Take Revenge
Tamar Becomes a Prostitute -- and the Progenitor of David and the Messiah
Joseph is Framed -- and Then Frames His Brothers
His basic points in these chapters are that bad things happen to good people and vice versa, that punishment on earth is often disproportionate and inappropriate (such as punishing descendents as yet unborn), and that the rules keep shifting.
Having driven you to the brink of despair about what Genesis means, he then offers his counterargument that all of this is purposeful on God's part. In chapters 11 and 12, he argues that Genesis is there to set the stage for the Ten Commandments, so show what a world is like without firm and lasting sacred rules that apply to all people at all times. In this context, God's apparent inconsistency is not so troubling, because it is replaced with the consistency of today. In chapter 13, he argues that a meaningful set of religious rules requires that there be justice in an afterlife. Otherwise, the obvious injustices in this life would leave people disaffected from religion. In chapter 14, he connects each of the Ten Commandments to one of the stories in Genesis. These form both a precedent for principle, as well, as a background for understanding the need for a better rule. He connects these points to secular law, as well.
Those with a Jewish religious education will find the material most familiar. To make the text more available to Christians and Moslems, he adopts the common English translations of the Hebrew for his usual references. Fundamentalist Christians will find an occasional nod in their direction, but will probably not find the information very helpful in many cases. Agnostics and people from religions not based on the Old Testament will find the perspective of creating a legal code primarily relevant to their interests. The modern-day examples of crime and criminals will be appealing to all.
I think any reason to spend more time with God's word is good, and I applaud Professor Dershowitz for adding another useful perspective to the riot of apparent contradictions in Genesis. Those with faith will feel affirmed. Those without faith may find a pathway closer to that having faith.
After you finish this book, think of your own examples of religious texts that provide confusion in your mind. Then do some reading to better understand what those texts could mean.
Have faith and prosper!
56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
If History Begins in Sumer, Law Begins in Genesis... 23 Mar 2000
By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
....let's discuss this enlightening book which explores the stories
from the first book (Genesis) of the five books of Moses (Torah) from
the perspective of law and justice. Based on Torah, Talmud, rabbinic
commentaries, the Hasidic commentaries of Rabbi Levi Isaac of
Berditchev, and the legal insight of a yeshiva educated Harvard law
professor, the reader follows the development of the concept of
justice. Consider the flawed personalities in the Book of
Genesis... it's like watching 5 seasons of Law & Order: Adam and
Eve (expulsion); Cain and Abel (murder and favoritism); Noah, Abraham
and Isaac (attempted murder, the akedah), Hagar and Sarah; Abraham,
Sodom and ten good people (collective punishment?); Esau and Jacob
(bait & switch, verbal contracts and trickery); Jacob and Laban;
Hamor, circumcision, and Jacob's sons; Joseph and his
brothers. Dershowitz provides an enlightening read and ready access to
commentaries that remove the rose-colored glasses from the stories you
heard as a child.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Dershowitz Adds to the Understanding of Justice 23 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In his "The Genesis of Justice," practitioner and law professor (and apparently, Bible scholar)Alan Dershowitz adds to the wealth of midrahism examining the first book of the Torah. His approach is surprisingly traditional, but filled with new insight. A necessary addition to any library examining the meanings of Genesis and the Torah as a whole.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A learning God? 8 May 2000
By David Teubner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Does God struggle along with his creation to establish laws that are fair and just? Is God actually learning from his creation? These are just two questions that are explored in this fascinating book. This book is a great primer for those interested in the history of Western culture and Judaism.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent! 1 Jun 2000
By Jackie Tortorella - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was utterly amazed at the depth of insight, the logic, and the fairness demonstrated by Alan Dershowitz's treatment of this difficult topic. This is a book for anyone who has pondered questions of justice, from a human and from a divine viewpoint. Having recently read Just Revenge, Alan's second novel (highly recommended), I preordered this book knowing it would be special. It made me laugh sometimes--if Abraham had possessed the chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz, who knows how differently things might have turned out. Seriously, I found the book extremely well researched and enlightening. I'm Catholic, and was especially surprised by the author's seemingly favorable view of Jesus. Alan pointed out that Jesus wanted to make the law more compassionate, but that he contradicted himself by saying he came not to destroy but to fulfill the law. I don't feel there was a contradiction there, because as Alan himself demonstrated, the Bible is a living document in which the concepts of righteousness and justice evolved into a more mature understanding as time moved on. Well...I think that happened by God's design, and that Christ was indeed the fulfillment of not only the law, but the unanswered questions. I halfway expected Alan to arrive at that conclusion himself in the last chapter, when he discussed the question of an afterlife. I only wish Alan Dershowitz were a Christian, because he would be one of the most moral and effective evangelists of all time.
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