Francesco Cocco

The Torah as a Place of Refuge

Biblical Criminal Law and the Book of Numbers

[Die Tora als Zufluchtsort. Biblisches Strafrecht und das Buch Numeri.]

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sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154138-4
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Published in English.
In this book, Francesco Cocco studies the law on the »cities of refuge« contained in Num 35,9–34, comparing it with analogue biblical laws (Ex 21; Deut 19 and Josh 20) in order to establish its originality and novelty. He shows that Num 35 seeks to supersede the private justice incarnated by the »avenger of blood«: someone charged to take revenge for the death of a family member by killing the murderer.
The law on the »cities of refuge« contained in Num 35,9–34 is almost universally seen as a simple repetition of legal content that is basically already present in the legislation of other biblical books. Francesco Cocco demonstrates that we find ourselves here before a case of reformulation instead of simple repetition, the implications of which are extremely interesting for the understanding of biblical penal legislation. In this particular fragment, it exhibits traces of modernity so surprising as to be as good as the defence of civil liberties in the legal systems currently in force in the majority of democratic states.
The author's enquiry takes its starting point and develops, therefore, from the novel contribution which the legislation in Num 35,9–34 confers on the entire biblical law of a penal character.

Francesco Cocco Born 1975; studied at the Theological Institute of Assisi (Italy) and at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome); 2006 doctorate in Sacred Scriptures from the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome); currently Professor of Old Testament Exegesis (Pentateuch) at the Pontifical Urbaniana University (Rome, Italy).


The following reviews are known:

In: Journal for the Study of the OT — 41.5 (2017) (Nathan MacDonald)
In: Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte (ZAR) — 24 (2018), pp. 327–329 (Eckart Otto)