This starts a section that the NCT titles “The Book of the Covenant,” known as the “Covenant Code” by Biblical scholars, who consider it one of the sources used in Exodus. The NCT divides it into 16 parts, and that’s how I’m going to consider them. Basically I’ll give a few thoughts about each portion. It’s not going to be systematic.
1. About the Altar (Ex 20:22-26)
The description of how you’re supposed to build an altar is interesting. It assumes local people building many little altars, of earth or unhewn stone. The idea that there might be a single, permanent temple doesn’t fit in here – in fact, it seems almost contradicted by the idea that you can’t use hewn stone because “if you use a chisel upon it you profane it” (v 25). The Japanese uses the term kegare for “profane.” It means “dirty,” and especially ritual uncleanness in a Shinto context.
2. About Slaves (Ex 21:1-11)
About the best thing you can say about this section is that it gives slaves some rights. A Hebrew slave (not a foreigner, mind you) has to be let go after six years, and if he was married when purchased his wife and children have to leave with him. Unfortunately if he wants to stay with a wife he marries while I slave he also has to remain a slave… or does the provision that he also loves his master mean that there’s a loophole around that?
And if a woman gets sold as a slave, with the assumption that her knew master will probably use her sexually, gives her some rights as well. If he doesn’t like her, she can be bought back; if he gives her to a son, she becomes a daughter-in-law; if he keeps her for himself, then she becomes a wife. And if he mistreats her, then she can go home free of charge.
But what’s noticeable with both is how selling yourself or your daughter was done to pay off debt. Going to link here for some thoughts on how debt was perceived in the ancient world.
3. Crimes Deserving Death (21:12-17)
My understanding is that the way that Jewish tradition has gotten around the idea of putting children who curse their parents to death is by defining the terms so carefully that it’s almost impossible to do. There’s a narrow window where you’re old enough to be accountable for your own actions while also still being a child, and the curse has to be ridiculously egregious.
When we here cursing, I think we tend to think of something like Cee Lo Green’s biggest hit, something anyone might foolishly do in a moment of anger. But the Japanese doesn’t translate it as nonoshiru but as norou, to curse as in “to cast an evil spell on someone,” which is something a lot of people here still believe might, maybe, happen sometimes. So in that context, it’s “whoever actively goes out of their way to try to harm their parents by magic means.” And since the creators of these laws likely believed that could, definitely, happen sometimes, you can see where that might merit the death penalty… if you can pretend that curses aren’t ridiculous for a moment.
4. Bodily Injury (21:19-32)
I was stunned to discover recently that there’s a reason many in the Anti-Choice camp site 22-25 as an anti-abortion argument – namely, they mistranslate it. The NIV, an Evangelical-aimed translation, haspassage as:
“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
They acknowledge in footnote that an alternate translate is “has a miscarriage,” but fail to mention that this is the correct translation. The woman loses the baby, and the “no further harm” (in the NRSV’s translation) refers to the woman. But say that she gives birth prematurely, then the “no further harm” can apply to the baby – bam! an anti-abortion text is born! Nevermind that more than 2000 years of translation has always had it as miscarriage…
Fortunately the NCT follows the NRSV’s example (probably in part because abortion isn’t a political issue in Japan); it’s also worth noting that the word for “miscarriage” can also mean “abortion” in Japanese.
5. Damage of Property (21:33-36)
Not a whole lot to notice here, other than that the Japanese translates “pit” as “sump.”
Parts 6-10 tomorrow in Chapter 22.
The Japanese: mushou “free of charge” (v 2), saitaisha “a married man” (v 3), zokusu “to belong to” (v 4), meigen suru “to declare, to make a statement” (v 5), moshiku “or, otherwise,” kiri “drill, auger” (v 6), kenri “right, privilege” (v 8), kotogara “thing, circumstance” (v 11), koi “intention, mens rea” (v 13), yuukai suru “to kidnap” (v 16), manukareru “to be exempted,” hoshou “compensation,” chiryou “medical treatment (v 19), ryuusan “abortion, abortive birth, miscarriage,” sonshou “damage, injury,” youkyuu suru “demand, requiest, require,” baishou “compensation,” chuusaisha “arbitrator,” saitei “decision” (v 22), yakedo “burn” (v 25), kuse “habit” (v 29), kitei “provisions” (v 31), mizutame “sump” (v 33), seppan suru “to halve” (v 35), okotaru “to be negligent” (v 36), hofuru “to slaughter, to butcher” (37).
You’ll notice that the verses go on longer than the NRSV does, which stops at 36. This is another instance of the NCT following the Jewish verse-numbering, though because this last verse is treated as the start of part 6, I’ll leave it until tomorrow. But this will mean that the verses will be off by one when I list the Japanese tomorrow as well.