I imagine that when Robert Cover's Nomos and Narrative essay first reached the editors of the Harvard Law Review, their befuddlement derived not so much from Cover's framing of his review of the 1982 Supreme Court term with a philosophically opaque discussion of the interdependence of law and narrative, but from the illustrations that he drew from biblical and rabbinic texts of ancient and medieval times. For Cover, both intellectually and as a matter of personal commitment, these ancient texts evoke a "nomian world," rooted more in communally shared stories of legal origins and utopian ends than in the brutalities of institutional enforcement, one from which modem legal theory and practice have much to learn and to emulate. Since my own head is buried most often in such ancient texts, rather than in modem courts, I thought it appropriate to reflect, by way of offering more such texts for our consideration, on the long-standing preoccupation with the intersection and interdependency of the discursive modes of law and narrative in Hebrew biblical and rabbinic literature, without, I hope, romanticizing them. Indeed, I wish to demonstrate that what we might think of as a particularly modem tendency to separate law from narrative, has itself an ancient history, and to show how that tendency, while recurrent, was as recurrently resisted from within Jewish tradition. In particular, at those cultural turning points in which laws are extracted or codified from previous narrative settings, I hope to show that they are also renarrativized (or remythologized) so as to address, both ideologically and rhetorically, changed socio-historical settings. I will do so through admittedly selective, yet telling, examples.
Steven D. Fraade,
Nomos and Narrative Before Nomos and Narrative,
Yale J.L. & Human.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol17/iss1/5