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Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch
James W. Watts
SymS 17
Publication Date
November 2001


Persia and Torah provides the first thorough evaluation in English of the theory that the Persian Empire authorized and influenced the formation of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The contributors to this volume address the role of written texts in ancient politics, religion, and law; the political and social contexts behind the literary formation of the Torah; the social forces that motivated the acceptance of the first Bible; and the experiences of Judeans in the Persian period in comparison with other Persian subjects, especially Egyptians and Greeks. Along with the translated work of Peter Frei, the leading proponent of this theory about imperial influence on local law in the Persian period, the volume presents evaluations of the theory and its application to the Bible by the leading experts on the period and its literature.


—James W. Watts

Persian Imperial Authorization: A Summary
—Peter Frei

Was the Pentateuch the Civic and Religious Constitution of the Jewish Ethnos in the Persian Period?
—Joseph Blenkinsopp

“You Shall Appoint Judges”: Ezra’s Mission and the Rescript of Artaxerxes
Lisbeth S. Fried

The Law of Moses in the Ezra Tradition: More Virtual Than Real?
—Lester L. Grabbe

An Achaemenid Imperial Authorization of Torah in Yehud?
—Gary N. Knoppers

The So-Called “Codificiation” of Egyptian Law under Darius I
—Donald B. Redford

“Persian Imperial Authorization”: Some Question Marks
—Jean Louis Ska

James W. Watts is Associate Professor of Religion at Syracuse University.