Title

"Shall Not the Judge of the World Do Justice?": Accountability, Compassion, and Judicial Authority in the Biblical Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

Publication Title

Journal of Law and Religion

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2002

Abstract

In this Essay, I argue that the Biblical portrayal of God as a person, and, in particular, as a judge, offers an attractive model for human judicial authority. I examine Genesis 18:16-32, the story of Abraham's questioning of God's judgment concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, along with Rabbinic commentaries. The God who speaks with Abraham in these texts offers a model of legal authority that is engaged and responsive. Using God as a model, this Biblical passage and the Rabbinic commentaries that accompany it present accountability and compassion, rather than wisdom or power, as the preeminent judicial virtues and the foundation of judicial authority.

By portraying God as a person, bringing Him down to earth (as it were), the Bible helps us appreciate that God's actions can serve as a model for our own. In contrast to the conceptual analysis of God as omnipotent and omniscient, which sets Him up as a foil for human authority, the literary portrayal of God as a person highlights the ways in which we can be like Him. God's behavior during His encounter with Abraham in Genesis 18:16-32 models judicial virtues that we can emulate - virtues that lend legitimacy to human power.

Comments

External Links

Westlaw

HeinOnline

SSRN

Recommended Citation

Timothy D. Lytton, "Shall Not the Judge of the World Do Justice?": Accountability, Compassion, and Judicial Authority in the Biblical Story of Sodom and Gomorrah, 18 J.L. & Relig. 31 (2002).

DOI

10.2307/1051493

Volume

18

Issue

1

First Page

31

Last Page

55

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