Bernard Levinson understands biblical law in terms of its own history. In the process, he illumines the history of the canon and the history of the religion of Israel. He is a meticulous scholar, as meticulous as they come; he is also a generous scholar, a bridge-builder. At the same time, he does not shy away from controversy. We learn through controversy, which means we can learn from Levinson if we agree with him and even if we disagree with him. Anyone who delights in the fine detail of Torah and wonders at Torah's ability to shape the life of nations and communities will find Levinson a joy to read.
I asked Levinson not long ago to describe his ongoing work, and to point out five important resources for “thinking about canon.” Here is what he had to say:
1. I would put on top the major work of my teacher Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. The focus of the book is, of course, inner-biblical exegesis: but it thereby raises the entire issue of how to understand the way the formative canon itself triggers new literary growth. It also offers a good reflection on the range of approaches toward the canon. [For a similar remark by another student of Fishbane, Angela Roskop, go here.]
2. I found very helpful Sidney Z. Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence (2d ed.; Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 47; New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1991 ). It provides a superb overview and gathers an immense amount of material.
3. Perhaps unconventionally, for a kind of intellectual control, I also was deeply engaged by A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (ed. Erica Reiner; University of Chicago Press, 1977 ) . It's brilliant--and it provides a window into a different conception of "prestigious and stable texts" and the different kinds of genres and aims of a literary "canon."
4. I am currently working on a book on the canon that will be published in April by Cambridge University Press: "You Shall Not Add to It": Paradoxes of Canon and Authorship in Ancient Israel (with an Annotated Bibliography on Inner-Biblical Exegesis). It will be a significantly revised and much expanded version of a small volume in French that appeared just over a year ago: L’Herméneutique de l’innovation: Canon et exégèse dans l’Israël biblique (preface by Jean Louis Ska; Le livre et le rouleau 24; Brussels: Éditions Lessius, 2005). • Review: Jean Louis Ska, Nouvelle Revue Théologique 129 (2007) 148–49. • Review by Didier Luciani, Vies consacrées 78 (2006) 196–97. The volume includes an annotated bibliography on inner-biblical exegesis, which is expanded in the forthcoming English edition.
5. For a fifth title, I could commend at a more introductory level but still very well done: Jewish Study Bible (ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). There are some simply superb articles gathered together in the back matter; I have never seen an annotated Bible this rich. There are very fine essays on issues of canon, interpretation (exegesis), and cultural context. I did the annotations and introduction to Deuteronomy, and that short essay already raises issues of how Deuteronomy transformed the "canon" in its own way, and the way it makes an important statement in closing the Pentateuch.
Thank you, Prof. Levinson. For my part, I’ve plugged the work of Fishbane and Levinson before, on more than one occasion. The following volume by Fishbane is the best example of canonical exegesis I know of in the sense that Brevard Childs had in mind:
Michael Fishbane, Haftarot. JPS Translation [and] Commentary (The JPS Bible Commentary: Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002).
One of the more persuasive aspects of Levinson’s work is his demonstration that “Moses” is – above and beyond being a historical figure – a hermeneutical construct (my terminology). That is, all law of whatever provenance and date that stands in the same tradition as precedent law attributed to Moses is also attributed to him. Said hermeneutical frame seems to have been fundamental to rabbinic Judaism from its inception. Levinson persuasively shows that its roots lie deep within the Hebrew Bible itself. The matter is of extraordinary interest. For further discussion, go here.
Here is short list of Levinson’s more important contributions:
L’Herméneutique de l’innovation: Canon et exégèse dans l’Israël biblique, with a preface by Jean Louis Ska (Le livre et le rouleau 24; Brussels: Éditions Lessius, 2006). For further information, go here.
Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation. Oxford and New York: Oxford Press, 1997.
Theory and Method in Biblical and Cuneiform Law: Revision, Interpolation and Development (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, vol. 181. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994; repr. Sheffield: Phoenix, 2006).
“The Right Chorale”: Studies in Biblical Law and Interpretation (Forschungen zum Alten Testament; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). For full table of contents, go here.
“‘You Must Not Add Anything to what I Command You’: Paradoxes of Canon and Authorship in Ancient Israel,” Numen 50 (2003) 1-51.
"The Covenant at Mount Sinai: The Argument of Revelation," in The Jewish Political Tradition. Volume 1: Authority (ed. Michael Walzer, Noam J. Zohar, Menachem Loberbaum, and Yair Lorberbaumet; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).
"Recovering the Lost Original Meaning of Deut 13:9," Journal of Biblical Literature 115 (1996) 601-20.
"`But You Shall Surely Kill Him!': The Text-Critical and Neo-Assyrian Evidence for MT Deuteronomy 13:10," in Bundesdokument und Gesetz: Studien zum Deuteronomium (ed. Georg Braulik; Herder's Biblical Studies 4; Freiburg: Herder, 1995) 37-64.
"The Case for Revision and Interpolation within the Biblical Legal Corpora," in Theory and Method in Biblical and Cuneiform Law: Revision, Interpolation and Development (ed. Bernard M. Levinson. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, vol. 181. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994; repr. Sheffield: Phoenix, 2006) 37-59.
"The Human Voice in Divine Revelation: The Problem of Authority in Biblical Law," in Innovation in Religious Traditions: Essays in the Interpretation of Religious Change (ed. Michael A. Williams, Martin S. Jaffee, and Collett Cox; Religion and Society 31; Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992) 35-71.
"`The Right Chorale': From the Poetics of Biblical Narrative to the Hermeneutics of the Hebrew Bible," in "Not in Heaven": Coherence and Complexity in Biblical Narrative (ed. Jason P. Rosenblatt and Joseph C. Sitterson; Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. Bloomington : Indiana Press, 1991) 129-53, 242-47.
"Calum M. Carmichael's Approach to the Laws of Deuteronomy," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990) 227-57.
"Biblical Law," in Reader's Guide to Judaism. London: Fitzroy Dearborn (in press).
 I made a couple of copy editing changes to Levinson’s reply.