FINKELSTEIN, JACOB JOEL


FINKELSTEIN, JACOB JOEL
FINKELSTEIN, JACOB JOEL (1922–1974), U.S. Assyriologist, specializing in cuneiform law. Born in New York to Orthodox Jewish parents his early education included yeshivah training, but Finkelstein himself later moved far away from Orthodoxy. Though he graduated with honors from high school, full-time college was not within his means and he went to work as a presser. In World War II he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and at the war's end resumed his studies at Brooklyn College (B.A., 1948), and then at the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. 1953) where he was strongly influenced by his teacher, E.A. Speiser. After graduating, he was a research assistant with A. Goetze in the Near Eastern Languages Dept. at Yale University from 1953 to 1955. From 1956 to 1965 he taught Assyriology at the University of California in Berkeley, and in 1965 was appointed professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature at Yale University. Finkelstein was the author of studies in Mesopotamian history, historiography, and law, but his interest focused increasingly on the last. At the time of his premature death of heart failure, he was preparing a fuller exposition of the contrast between biblical and Mesopotamian law based on an analysis of the "goring-ox rules" (cf. p. 269, n. 308 of "The Goring Ox" in the Temple Law Quarterly, 46:2 (1973), 169f.), which is a programmatic fragment of the intended work. His lasting contribution, however, will likely be his numerous copies of cuneiform texts, mainly from the collections of the British Museum and Yale University, which testify to his skill as an interpreter of tablets. Among his studies are "Cuneiform Texts from Tell Billa," Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 7 (1953), 111f.; "Mesopotamian Historiography," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 107 (1963), 461f.; "The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty," Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 20 (1966), 95f.; "Sex Offenses in Sumerian Law," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 86 (1966), 355f.; Old Babylonian Legal Documents (1968); "The Laws of Ur Nammu," Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 22 (1968), 66f.; "An Old Babylonian Herding Contract and Genesis 31:38f.," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 88 (1968), 30; "Ha-Mishpat ba-Mizraḥ ha-Kadmon," Enẓiklopediya Mikra'it, 5 (1968), 588f.; translations in J. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1969): "Collections of Laws from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor," 523f., "Documents from the Practice of Law," 542f., Late Old Babylonian Documents and Letters (1972). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Hoffner, Jr., in: JAOS, 95 (1975), 589–91; M. DeJong Ellis, Essays on the Ancient Near East in Memory of Jacob Joel Finkelstein (1977); J. Finkelstein, The Ox that Gored (published posthumously by Ellis; 1981); T. Frymer-Kensky, in, BA 45 (1982), 189. (Aaron Shaffer)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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