; The Cultic Versus the Forensic: Judahite and Mesopotamian Judicial Procedures in the First Millennium B.C.E
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The Cultic Versus the Forensic: Judahite and Mesopotamian Judicial Procedures in the First Millennium B.C.E

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Recourse to a cultic procedure could cut short an investigation; it might identify a "guilty" party but leave the administrative or economic problem unresolved. Since oral testimony was the most highly valued type of forensic evidence throughout the ancient Near East, it is not surprising that they, like the authors of Deuteronomy, seek to obtain a minimum level of such evidence before deciding certain cases.

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									                     The Cultic Versus the Forensic:
             Judahite and Mesopotamian Judicial Procedures
                      in the First Millennium b.c.e.
                                                 Bruce Wells
                                          Saint Joseph’s University



Throughout most periods of ancient Near Eastern history, religious rituals frequently played
an important role in the resolution of legal disputes that were brought to trial. It appears
that judges would sometimes make use of them arbitrarily but often when they felt the avail-
able evidence was insufficient or at least too ambiguous to render a decisive verdict. The
rituals—or cultic procedures, as I will call them—fall essentially into three categories, mem-
orable for their alliteration: the oath, the oracle, and the ordeal. Each term is sometimes
preceded by the word “judicial” to distinguish it from similar rituals that occurred outside
the context of a trial. By means of these procedures, courts appealed to the divine realm to
help decide the matter at hand. Some recent scholarship has observed changes in how and
how often these procedures
								
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