Westbrook, Raymond

westbrook.jpg

Name

Westbrook, Raymond

Dates

XXX - 23 July 2009

Birthplace

XXX

Specialization

Assyriology

Major works

Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law, Cahiers de la Revue Biblique, No. 26. Paris: Gabalda, 1988; Old Babylonian Marriage Law, Archiv für Orientforschung, Beiheft No. 23. Horn: Berger, 1988; Property and the Family in Biblical Law, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, No. 113. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991; Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations (with R. Cohen). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000; Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law (with R. Jasnow). Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2001; A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law. Handbuch der Orientalistik 72. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003; Women and Property in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Societies (with D. Lyons). Washington DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2005 electronic publication: www.chs.harvard.edu/publications.sec; Isaiah's Vision of Peace in Biblical and Modern International Relations: Swords into Plowshares (with R. Cohen). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Remarks

Professor, Johns Hopkins University, 1987-2009.

Obituaries

Dean Adam F. Falk of Johns Hopkins University circulated this obituary (posted Sasson list, 30 July 2009):

For the second time in about a month, I must write to share the sad news of a faculty member’s passing.* Near Eastern Studies Professor Raymond Westbrook, the W.W. Spence Professor of Semitic Languages, died July 23 in London after a long illness.

Ray was the leading authority on ancient Near Eastern legal traditions, and he made important contributions to the study of early Greek and Roman law as well. He conceived and edited the monumental two-volume History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2003), writing himself more than 200 of its 1200 pages, and making significant contributions to many more. A two-volume collection of his articles, Law from the Tigris to the Tiber, will appear later this year, in conjunction with a session dedicated to his work at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in New Orleans.

Ray believed that his initial training in the law gave him privileged insight into ancient legal systems, and, understanding that his circumstances were rather special, he sought to bring legal historians and political scientists together with scholars of the ancient Near East to better comprehend ancient legal and diplomatic documents. The three international conferences he organized to these ends were published as Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations (with R. Cohen, 2000), Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law (with R. Jasnow, 2001), and Isaiah’s Vision of Peace in Biblical and Modern International Relations: Swords into Plowshares (with R. Cohen, 2008). As a scholar of Greek and Roman law as well as ancient Near Eastern law, he was also interested in bringing classicists together with ancient Near Eastern specialists, as he did in the conference published as Women and Property in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Societies (with D. Lyons, 2005).

A professor at Johns Hopkins since 1987, Ray developed the ancient law minor that many of our students have pursued, and he was past director of the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Jewish Studies Program. In addition to the many courses on legal and diplomatic sources in Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, and Hebrew in Near Eastern Studies, he also taught Roman law in the Classics department. Ray earned his bachelor’s degree in law at Oxford University and a master’s in law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he also taught for three years. He earned his doctorate in Assyriology at Yale University, and was a lecturer at Hebrew University from 1983 to 1987.

What many of you may not know is that Ray also wrote children’s stories. The hero of these stories, Rabbi Binyamin, with the help of Akbar the mouse, would defeat evil wherever it surfaced. Ray drew on themes from the Bible and Jewish tradition for these stories, which were not published but enjoyed wide circulation among his family and friends.

Ray showed unwavering grace and courage in the face of a terminal condition. He was an active and inspiring scholar and teacher through his last days. His final monograph, Everyday Law in Biblical Israel: An Introduction (with B. Wells), is in press. The Arts and Sciences community and all of Johns Hopkins have suffered a tremendous loss. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to Ray’s wife Henie, and his sons, Harry and Hasdai, as well as to his colleagues and friends in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

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