According to the conventional wisdom American constitutional democracy stemmed from Athenian democracy, Roman Law, English legal practices, and the Magna Carta. This book agrees that democracy was born in Athens. However, as the title suggests, the thesis of this book claims that constitutionalism in the sense of an agreed text sanctioning procedures of legislation, government, and power flow germinated in pre-state Israel better known as Israel of the Judges. The thesis of the book consists of three concepts: (1) The roots of American constitutionalism are in biblical Israel; this concept has been debated by scholars of constitutional history. (2) Proto-Israel also known as Israel of the Judges had no king as the Book of Judges claims; however it had a covenant which it enforced. Naturally, this belief is as old as the Bible; however, its proof is new. (3) American constitutionalism did not stem from studying and applying biblical recipes. It rather evolved through a sequence of embodiments each passing on the torch of essential traditions to its heir. This concept is new. The book is not intended to shake your understanding of the constitution; however it will answer questions you might have asked or even questions you never asked.
Joseph Livni is independent scholar.
Introduction: Nice to Meet You…
Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time…
Chapter 2: The Difference between Political Concessions and Constitutional Liberties
Chapter 3: The Covenant of Israel: Customary Law or Law
Chapter 4: The Covenantal Society: Lex Rex
Chapter 5: The Covenantal society, Structure, Organization, and Power Flow
Chapter 6: Justice Administration in Biblical Israel
Chapter 7: Inventing a Covenantal Society is Impossible
Chapter 8: Covenantal Psychology
Chapter 9: Evolution Tree
Chapter 10: God Gave Moses the Law
Chapter 11: The Supremacy of the Law
Chapter 12: Evolution, Customs, and Law
In an era in which academic specializations seem to be conceived ever narrower, Livni’s book presents the reader with a stimulatingly broad perspective of the “genealogy” of the covenant idea in American constitutionalism. Livni’s analysis encompasses history, theology, politics, and culture, but also introduces data from such scientific fields as biological evolution and statistical analysis. Livni’s unique cross-fertilization of ideas yields numerous insights of great interest.
Joseph Livni’s provocative work is a unique contribution to the study of the American Constitution – not because it is a new perspective drawn from political science, but because it isn’t. Thinking about the Constitution as a covenant may not be entirely new, but postulating the impossibility of the Constitution absent a covenantal society, and opening a window into the origins, essential elements and continuity of covenantal society as distinguished from hierarchical society is new. I found interesting also the extensive discussion from sociological, scientific and mathematical perspectives of the tenacity of covenantal societies, especially their persistence even within broader hierarchical polities. The Biblical Roots of American Constitutionalism:From ‘I am the Lord’ to ‘We the People’ is not only new, it is timely. Contemporary America is in the midst of a constitutional debate over constitutional transformation to a more hierarchical model. This book and its thesis should be an important contributor because, without addressing the specific contemporary context, it can promote a better understanding of what is at stake in the dispute over the contending constitutional theories of “Living Constitution” and “Originalism”.