The Pentateuch, Law of Moses or Torah

Introduction

It is believed that the name Pentateuch “the first five books of the Old Testament, the book of the Law” (The Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopaedia, 1964, p.1402) was first found in the letter of Elora of a second century Gnostic, Ptolemy and passed into Christian use. These books are called The Law (Torah) or the Law of Moses by the Jews. (Everyman’s Encyclopedia, 1978). It would be difficult to overestimate the role that the Pentateuch has played in the course of biblical scholarship. In all likelihood, these first five books in the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy- have been subjected to scrutiny more than any single block, with the sole possible exception of the Gospels (Knight and Tucker, 1985).

Origin

The word Pentateuch derives from the Greek pentateuchos “five-volumed (book)”, following the Jewish designation “the five-fifths of the law”. Jews call it the Torah, that is instruction, often rendered in English Law as it is called in the New Testament (Greek nomon; example, Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:17; Acts 7:53; 1 Cor. 9:8). According to Lasor, Hubbard and Bush (1982), the Pentateuch was “the most important division of the Jewish canon, with an authority and sanctity far exceeding that attributed to the prophets and writing” (p.54). They observe that the books of the Pentateuch are not ‘books’ in the modern sense of independent self-contained entries, but were purposefully structured and intended as part of a larger unity; therefore the term Pentateuch is not only convenient but necessary. However, granted this fact of the unity of the larger corpus, the conventional five-fold division is important not simply as a convenient means of reference to the material, but because there is clear editorial evidence establishing just these five books as genuine subdivisions of the material. Despite marks of real disparity and complexity in structure and origins, far more primary and important is the overarching unity which the Pentateuch evidences. A careful reading of the Pentateuch will reveal, beside a definite unity of purpose, plan and arrangement, a diversity – a complexity – that is equally striking.

Authorship

The traditional view according to Halley (1962) is that “Moses wrote the Pentateuch substantially…with the exception of the few verses at the close which give an account of his death, and occasional interpolations made by copyists for explanatory purposes” (p.56). This is in consonance with the view of Childs (1979). A modern critical view is that of a composite work of various scholars of priests made about the eighth century B.C., for partisan purposes, based on oral traditions, the principal redactors of which are called J (for Jahweh/Yahweh, the personal name of God), E (for Elohim, a generic name for God), D (for Deuteronomic) and P (for priestly). Each is claimed to be unique. However, “this view is not supported by conclusive research or evidence, and intensive archaeological and literary research has tended to undercut many of the arguments used to challenge Mosaic authorship” (The NIV Study Bible, 1984, p.2). Jews and Christians alike have held Moses to be the author/compiler of the Pentateuch.

Contents

The Pentateuch consists of the first five afore-mentioned books of the Bible. It must be observed that the first phrase in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 is bereshith [in (the) beginning] which is also the Hebrew title of the book. The English title, Genesis, is Greek in origin and is derived from geneseos ‘birth’, ‘genealogy’ or ‘history of origin’. Genesis therefore appropriately describes its contents since it is primarily a book of beginnings. ‘Exodus’ is a Latin word from Greek exodos, meaning ‘exit’, ‘departure’. Leviticus receives its name from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) meaning ‘relating to the Levites’. It mainly concerns the service of worship at the tabernacle which was conducted by the priests who were the sons of Aaron, assisted by many from the rest of the tribe of Levi. Exodus gave the directions for building the tabernacle and Leviticus the laws and regulations for worship there including instructions on ceremonial cleanness, moral laws, holy days, the Sabbath year and the Year of the Jubilee. The English name of the book Numbers comes from the Septuagint and is based on the census lists found in it. The Hebrew title of the book (bedmidbar, ‘in the desert’), is more descriptive of its contents. It presents an account of the thirty-eight year period of Israel’s wandering in the desert following the establishment of the covenant of Sinai. The word ‘Deuteronomy’ (meaning the repetition of the law’), the name of the last book of the Pentateuch, arose from a mistranslation in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate of a phrase in Deuteronomy 17:18, which in Hebrew means ‘copy of the law’. The error is not serious however since Deuteronomy is, in a certain sense, a repetition of the law.

Generally, the unity of the Pentateuch must be stressed when discussing the content. This is created by an interest in the historical narrative forming the Pentateuch’s backbone and framework and into which the blocks of legal texts have been placed. A clue to this narrative’s central role and importance is the fact that the Old Testament events most frequently cited in the New Testament as the background and preparation for God’s work in Christ are precisely that sequence of divine acts from Abraham’s call through the kingship of David. Summaries or ‘confession’ of this sequence of divine acts plays a central role in Scripture. The basic details confessing God’s saving acts on behalf of His people could be illustrated thus:

i. God chose Abraham his descendants (Acts 13:17; Josh.24:3) and promised them the land of Canaan (Deut. 6:23)

ii. Israel went down into Egypt (Acts 13:17; Josh. 24:5-7; Deut. 6:21ff; 28:8)

iii. God brought Israel into Canaan as promised (Acts 13:19; Josh.24:11-13; Deut. 6:23; 26:9).

This is but the narrative backbone of the Pentateuch in miniature. The plan that unifies the different elements forming the building blocks of the Pentateuch includes: promise, election, deliverance, covenant, law and land. It is realistically observed that “the one element universally present and central to these credos…is the Exodus, representing Yahweh’s deliverance and the historical realization of His election of Israel as His people” (Lasor, Hubbard, Bush, 1982, p.55).

The Pentateuch has two major divisions: Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12- Deuteronomy 34. The relation between them is one question and answer, problem and solution; the clue is Genesis 12:3. This structure not only elucidates the binding unity of the Pentateuch but also reveals that the structure began stretches far beyond the Pentateuch itself. The end and fulfillment lie beyond Deuteronomy 34 – indeed beyond the Old Testament. It could be safely asserted that probably no where does the Old Testament set forth an ultimate solution to the universal problem which Genesis 1-11 so poignantly portrays. The Old Testament indeed does not arrive at full redemption. When the Old Testament ends, Israel is still looking for the final consummation when hope shall be fulfilled and promise become fact. The juncture of Genesis 10-11 and chapters 12ff., is not only one of the most important places in the whole Old Testament but one of the most important in the entire Bible. Here begins the redemptive history that awaits the proclamation of the good news of God’s new redemptive act in Jesus Christ; only then will be found the way in which the blessing of Abraham will bless all the families of the earth. The Pentateuch is truly open-ended, for the salvation history which commenced awaits the consummation in the Son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1) who draws all people to Him (John 12:32) punctuating the alienation of humanity from God and from one another.

Purpose

The purpose of the Pentateuch was a leading into the realization by God that He was the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as well as the Ruler of History. It testifies to God’s saving acts, the central act being the exodus from Egypt. God invaded the consciousness of the Israelites and revealed Himself as the redeeming God. Knowledge of God as Redeemer subsequently led to a knowledge of Him as Creator; understanding the Lord as the God of grace consequently prompted an understanding as the God of nature after He displayed control over nature as evidenced in the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea and sustenance in the wilderness. It must be stressed that God’s grace was evident not only in deliverance and guidance, but in the giving of the law and the initiation of the covenant. Israel’s supposed pledge of obedience, oath of loyalty to God and His will is her response. One must hasten to note that this response is a gift of God’s grace. The Pentateuch stands or better still possesses a rich inner unity recording God’s revelation in history and His Lordship over history and testifying to Israel’s response and disobedience. It generally witnesses to God’s holiness which “separates Him from men, and His gracious love, which binds Him to them on His terms” (New Bible Dictionary, 1962, p.909).

Themes

Although several themes could be identified between Genesis and Deuteronomy, unique but inter-related, intertwined and invaluable ones could be identified. These include election, creation, fall/sin, covenant, law and exodus. Israel was God’s elect. According to Stott (1988), the Bible is “sacred history – the story of God’s dealing with a particular people for a particular purpose” (p.45). They were convinced that God had done this for no other nation (Ps. 147:20). Great thinkers of Greece (including Plato, Socrates and Aristotle) are not the focus but scriptural record concentrates on men like Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and the prophets to whom the word of the Lord came, and on Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh. Abraham’s call has a present day significance to us and should not be slightly regarded as an event of the past. Election – God’s special choice of individuals- basically contains two subsidiary features; promise and responsibility. Abraham is promised descendants, given the land of Canaan as his children’s inheritance and promised a great name in the future. God’s special favour was to rest not only on Abraham and his family but to all men through him (Gal. 3:29).

God’s promises to Abraham therefore were not for the selfish enjoyment of a selected few but could benefit others if used responsibly. It is incontrovertible that God’s choice of Israel has a missionary purpose. A covenant, in the Hebrew context, covered all human relationships and not a limited definition of a matter of legal documents and sealing-wax in the modern mind. This bond united people in mutual obligations. Naturally, people’s relationship to God should be expressed in covenant terms. Covenant terms could be used to describe three unique occasions in the Pentateuch:

i. God’s promises never again to destroy the world with a flood (Gen. 9:9)

ii. God’s promises to Abram (Gen. 15:18; 17:4)

iii. The Sinai Covenant established with Moses and summarized in the ‘book of the covenant’ (Ex.24:4).

It must be borne in mind that although covenants were generally between equals, religiously it denotes a relationship between Creator and a lesser partner. However, the theological significance of the covenant must be highlighted. Based on initiative of God and implying a new revelation of the Creator, it made moral and ritual demands upon the people.

Taylor (1973) realistically observes that “the idea of law is central to the Pentateuch and…it gives its name to the book as a whole” (p.124). It basically covers the Ten Commandments (Decalogue – Ex. 20; Deut.5) and associates with these various collections of laws classified as:

i. The book of the Covenant (Ex. 21-23)

ii. The Holiness Code (Lev. 17:26)

iii. The Law of Deuteronomy (Deut. 12:26)

Since Israel was part of the Eastern Mediterranean culture and shared in the ideas and experience of her neighbours, several similarities could be noted especially with the Code of Hammurabi. The differences however made Israel’s laws distinctive. They could be summarized thus:

i. Uncompromising monotheism (that is relating everything to the one true God)

ii. Remarkable concern for slaves, strangers, women and orphans (the underprivileged)

iii. Community spirit based on the covenant relationship shared by all Israel with the Lord

In a brilliant summary, Cornfeld (1961) observed that “Hebrew law appears from its earliest times to stand on a higher ethical level and postulates moral human relationship which do not seem to be equalled in other Near Eastern Legislations” (p.213). Israel must approach God with a due sense of His moral and spiritual distinctiveness. The elaborate sacrificial system generally found its fulfilment in the solitary sacrifice of Christ – the perfect Lamb of God- through whom sins are not only forgiven but atonement made for all men eternally (Heb. 10:1-18).

The exodus must be put in proper perspective. Described in Exodus 1-12, the Jews view it as the great intervention or saving act of God which later generations reminisced. This miraculous intervention was God’s act of victory of the gods displaying total supremacy. Recalled annually in the Feast of the Passover, subsequent generations were reminded that they were initially members of a slave community mercifully redeemed from bondage. They were encouraged to use this as a deterrent, especially when curses reward disobedience. The historical significance was definitive. God could repeat His initial act. In Isaiah 51:9-11, Israel looked for a second exodus while in exile in Babylon.

The afore-mentioned themes are never submerged in the Pentateuch. Probably, the only other theme (which recurs in depressing regularity) is Israel’s obstinate and persistent sinfulness. Among other things, they were slow to accept Moses as their deliverer, grumbled about hardship and desired to ‘go back to Egypt’. Not even Moses was immune and was punished by not being allowed to lead God’s people in the promised land.

Conclusion

Together, the five books trace Israel’s origin from the earliest times, through the patriarchs; then the Exodus and Sinai periods prior to the entry to Canaan; they also contain much legal instruction. God’s response to sin is consistently a blend of judgement and mercy. Beyond the immediate discipline of Adam and Eve, and confusion of tongues at Babel, God tempers justice with salvation. It is understandable therefore that in spite of man’s path, God called Abraham to be the channel of grace and revelation to all mankind.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Childs, B. (1979). Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Columbia-Viking Desk Encyclopedia (1964). New York: Dell Publishing Co.

Cornfeld, G. (1961). Adam to Daniel. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Everyman’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 1. (1979). London : Dent and Sons.

Halley, H.H. (1962). Halley’s Pocket Bible Handbook: An Abbreviated Bible Commentary. Minnesota:
Zondervan Publishing.

Knight, D.A. and G.M. Tucker (1985). The Hebrew Bible and its Modern Interpreters. Minnesota:
Fortress Press.

Lasor, W.S., D.A. Hubbard and F.W. Bush (1982). Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form and
Background to the Old Testament. Michigan: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

The New Bible Dictionary (1962). London: The Inter-Varsity Fellowship.

NIV Study Bible (1984). Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stott, J. (1988). Understanding the Bible. London: Scripture Union.

Taylor, J. (1973). The Five Books. In The Lion Handbook to the Bible. Herts: Lion Publishing.

How We Discover and Why It Matters

Our Searching Disposition

We are driven to explore. As individuals, and as a civilization, we possess an insatiable desire to search and discover.

We see it in Star Trek, which proclaims a mission “to explore… new worlds, to seek out new life… , to boldly go where no (one) has gone before.” In science, we see it in the quest for larger telescopes, more powerful particle accelerators, and more sophisticated satellites to observe planets. We see it in other fields. Philosophers want to answer unanswered questions; mathematicians want to prove unproven theorems; oceanographers want to observe unobserved depths.

And we see it in the more mundane. We see it in the curiosity of a young child watching a swarm of ants on the sidewalk. We see it our own attraction to a mystery novel or a television crime episode – we want to know who did it. We see it in the mountain climbers scaling new peaks, the chefs experimenting with new recipes, or just us, looking for a new place to visit, or new restaurant to try, or new book to read.

As individuals, and as a whole, we seek to know what is unknown, to comprehend what is not yet comprehended, to investigate that which remains a mystery, to understand the who, what, where, when and why of an event-very simply to grasp the here and the beyond here.

The Source of Our Curiosity

What drives this drive, what pushes humanity, you and I, individuals and groups, to strive for this comprehension?

Certainly the answer to that question forms a quest in itself, a question not completely answered. We can, however, conjecture that as humans evolved, a curiosity about the world endowed a competitive advantage. Those that explored, learned, and as they learned they invented, key inventions, like tools, and writing, and agriculture and on and on. Being curious meant being inventive, and being more inventive rendered those with curiosity more fit in the competition of evolution.

But even without the evolutionary advantages of curiosity, as humans developed larger brains, those larger brains and the correspondingly more complex intellect gave us for free, as a tag along, an inquisitiveness. Mankind with a larger brain could think more, and in more intricate and abstract ways. With this, and given the brains essentially unceasing activity, mankind naturally sought out things to think about.

Then humanity entered the modern age. Technological and cultural evolution augmented biological evolution, and our rate of progress increased. As progress propelled us, modern desires (and pressures) also grew, to increase efficiency, grow profits, gain promotions, win elections, earn raises, avoid being unemployed. These new, emerging drives and imperatives added to the prior curiosity born of biological evolution. While we still enjoyed that natural curiosity, we also became endowed, and burdened, by a social impetus to innovate, discover and improve. Sink or swim. No treading water.

The Reason to Study

Well enough then. The goal here centers only initially on a survey of why humanity explores. We have done that, partially, but enough to get the idea or at least stimulate ideas. Our main focus now turns to how we explore. What approaches do we use to seek out that which we don’t know, but need to know, or alternately, are innately driven to know?

Why take up this how question? Why be inquisitive about how we satisfy our inquisitiveness? Seems an esoteric question, right?

First and foremost, understanding how we discover can improve the effectiveness of our discovery and exploration. And, with a judgment here that the good of such discovery out weighs the bad, discovery and exploration improves and raises mankind, eases its burdens, assists in the attainment of good and promotes the creation of intrinsic value.

We speak here not just of economic or material gain, though that may come to mind first and is of course singularly important. Beyond that, though, discovery and exploration can and will improve the non-economic lot of individuals and humanity, by improving social cohesion, emotional well-being, intellectual satisfaction, and so on.

But a more subtle motivation exists. Practitioners and proponents of the different methods of discovery do not always see eye-to-eye. Practitioners of one or another method do not always value or even respect how other methods work or what they find. This does not always occur, but often enough.

That is regrettable. I would offer that the scope and span of knowledge and experience, the breadth of what can be discovered and explored, ranges so far and wide that mankind, we, collectively need more looking and rowing towards knowledge, and less looking sideways bemoaning (and at times castigating) fellow explorers. And when disagreements do arise, we need more reconciling and less arguing.

Four Methods of Discovery

What then constitute the methods of discovery? I will put them in four broad categories, as follows:

  • Science
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Art

I will cover each in turn.

Science

Science has achieved spectacular success. In just the last few centuries, science has amassed orders of magnitude more knowledge than that collected in all the preceding millenniums of civilization, and expanded our understanding of our actuality from small to large, from sub-particles of sub-particles to universes of universes.

Consider some specifics. Science has sequenced the human genome, uncovered the esoteric nature of quantum mechanics, and mapped light from earliest eons of the universe. Science as realized through technology has landed rovers on planets and a satellite on a comet, has populated the world with electronics, and regrettably, enabled weapons of enormous destructive power.

Scientific understandings underpin our modern civilization. Engines and power generation rest on thermodynamics. Modern medicine rests on biochemistry. Electricity and electronics rest on electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. The corrections in the clocks for GPS satellites depend on understandings from General Relativity. Our skyscrapers and bridges emerge from the principles in mechanics, dynamics and strength of materials. Flight depends on aerodynamics. Plastics and synthetics fibers became possible due to organic chemistry. And on and on.

The success of science, and the corollary (reasonable) reliability of technology, rest on the process by which science discovers. Science rests on measurement. While the great theoretical equations stand out, for example Einstein’s theories of relativity, or importantly but less well know Maxwell’s theories of electromagnetism, these theories and corresponding equations have succeeded due to their ability to explain and predict measurements.

That focus on measurement, or observation, or empirical data, motivates science to built ever finer and more sophisticated (and maybe unfortunately more expensive) means of measurement. We mentioned before the push for larger telescopes, faster particle accelerators and more capable satellites. Add to faster means of gene splicing, finer probes of the human brain, and quicker tests for diagnostics. And so on. Building better instruments for measurements has underpinned the essentially exponential growth of scientific discovery and knowledge.

But with its focus on measurement, science progresses only incrementally. As fast as these increments have come, science by its inherent approach builds one step at a time, observation-by-observation. We may view science through its breakthrough theories, but the theories we don’t readily recall, like the efforts to show light traveled through a medium called the “ether,” fall by the wayside as measurements, one-by-one, show such theories in conflict with the way things are.

Similarly, science progresses only within its scope, the measurable world. Size, composition, configuration, behavior-these type items constitute the measurement focus of science. That scope and focus spans an enormous range, a range expanding as science plus technology develop new means of measurement, but a range currently with limits.

The core process of science, objective data collection to support generalized theories, builds piece-by-piece. Science does not soar like a bird, but rather stays grounded, always moving forward, but (thankfully) well-grounded.

Religion

While science focuses on what can be reasonably measured, religion boldly (recklessly?) focuses on what can not readily be so measured. Religion takes revelations, prophecies, divine manuscripts, acts and teachings of sacred individuals, inspired testimony, spiritual experiences, and the like, to conceive what lies beyond our lives and beyond the space and time in which we dwell. Religions temper and augment these convictions with theological study, with philosophical logic, and within the historic, scientific and social context in which revelations and prophecies occurred, but by and large religion at its foundation rests on that from the divine.

Religion then, goes decidedly beyond that which can be objectively verified. Certainly the sacred individuals, the prophets, teachers, saviors, scribes. exist and existed with reasonable assurance. But whether their sayings, writings, actions and instructions stem from divine guidance, and whether these individuals were divine themselves, can not be objectively verified.

We can not, for example, go back and record Christ’s ascension into heaven, nor measure any magnetic or gravitational anomalies that may have been associated with that ascension. Nor can we interview the originators of the gospel accounts to help separate actual accounts from observer error from allegorical literary devices.

This does not level a criticism, but rather contrasts religion with other avenues of discovery.

Does religion then constitute a valid pursuit? Given what some consider the rather ephemeral basis at the core of religious discovery, can we advocate it as a method of exploration?

If history provides a guide, that history would say yes. For millenniums, people, communities, entire cultures and complete empires have professed religious beliefs and observed religious rituals. Ancient history shows Egyptian gods and goddesses, Greek and Roman mythology, ancient Hebrew prophets, and Indian Vedic texts and traditions. Christ, Mohammed and Brahman stand as iconic sacred figures (though Brahman might be considered more philosophical than theological). Even today, in the midst of ubiquitous secular and scientific influences, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and other religions remain far reaching.

But of course quantity does not prove quality. Thus, the number of adherents to, and historic prevalence of, religion does not demonstrate the validity of its tenets nor its legitimacy as its methods of discovery. So the question remains-does religion provide a valid approach to discovery?

We must distinguish here between the actions of the religious, or actions taken based on religious beliefs, from the approach to religious discovery. Throughout history, individuals, groups, countries and even organized religions themselves have undertake wars and executions, and perpetrated irrationalities and retributions, in the name of religion. The actions of the religious have descended at times to the level of despicable.

However, a method of discovery, in this case religion, does not lose validity due to the improper use of the tenets arising from the discovery. Scientific discoveries at times enabled the weapons of modern warfare. Modern production processes, based on scientific discoveries and principles, at times produced less than benevolent by-products, such as pollutants, occupational injuries, and worker exploitation. We do not stop science due to those effects.

But the question then still remains – can a religious approach stand as a valid mode of discovery?

I will answer an unequivocal yes. Certainly, no objection can be raised to a pondering of what lies beyond our corporeal world, or after our contingent lives. Even children ask questions about those topics. And as we mature, we, just about everyone wonders, at least once, if any world or existence lies beyond death or outside our universe. For many, the meaning of life, or in opposition, its futility, lies in the nature of the “out there” beyond our science and experience. Thus, to desire, or more strongly, to need to know and explore for the beyond stands as natural, reasonable, valid, dare say necessary.

And just as certainly, given current and near future technology, we can not measure or record much if anything about our continuation, or lack of, after death, nor can we measure much about the divine, or retched, realm beyond, for example below the Plank length, or in dimensions beyond our space-time, or in a spiritual-only sphere. Thus science, based as it is on measurement, can not currently or in the foreseeable future satisfy, certainly not comprehensively and likely not even partially, our naturally occurring wonderment about what lies beyond.

And finally, we do possess significant numbers of historic individuals who claim divine inspiration or nature, as well as large numbers of historic writings, texts, images and events connected with those individuals and/or dealing with the divine or god realm. And currently we do observe significant numbers of individuals who conscientiously indicate they experience, as subjective as such indications may be, the presence and existence of a God.

Thus we can 1) legitimately wonder and ponder about what exists beyond, 2) can not readily bring scientific measurement processes to bear (not yet), and 3) do have a rich body of attestations, subjective though they may be, about the divine.

What do we have then. We have a possible, and possibly important, realm out there beyond. Our “flashlight,” science can not see it. But we do have a large body of non-scientific indications. How can study and investigation of that large body of indications not be a reasonable effort?

The alternative means doing nothing. Some may argue that doing nothing represents the most logical approach, and saves us from useless speculation. I would respond that religion has endured with sufficient longevity, that the divine offers a realm of possibly great breath and scope, and that the question of what is beyond looms as too pressing, to do nothing. A given individual, or group, or organization, can legitimately conclude they should do nothing, but, on balance, they can not legitimately fault other individuals, or groups, or organizations, for pursuing religion, and a religious approach, to discovery of the beyond.

Some may further argue that at times, possibly frequently, religious discovery defies logic, spawns unchangeable dogma, and when touching upon the impact, past, present and future, of the divine realm on our actual realm, contradicts science.

I would offer this. Religious discovery, by its essence, does not possess a direct method of validating its tenets. We can not send a satellite to or run a chemical analysis of the divine. Other approaches, including theological study, interpretation of scriptures, historic analysis of religious events, and so on, must come into play. One of those other approaches rests on ritual and belief – in other words a leap of belief to accept (unproven) tenets and then ritual (ceremony, contemplation, song, prayer, abstinence) to seek revelations, divine, based to those beliefs.

Given that scientific and philosophical methods of validation do not readily apply to religious discovery, these other methods, I offer, must be declared reasonable. But validation by these other methods take time, a very long time. A detective makes a “leap of faith” or more precisely an intuitive hunch, about the perpetrator of a crime. This hunch proves true or not in a few weeks, months or maybe years. Scientists make a “leap of faith” or more precisely, a reasonable hypothesis, about new phenomena. This hypothesis proves true or not in a few years, or decades, or maybe centuries. Given the nature of the possible divine, and our limited human methods of validation of the divine, religious “leaps of faith” or more precisely beliefs, tenets and dogma, may require millenniums for confirmation. But faith does evolves, beliefs do advance, and, in the ultimate, religions that drift from alignment with ongoing contemplation and events, such religions fade away.

And where religion and the secular fall into disagreement, each side upon reflection should respect the other, and work together towards truth. And where concrete arguments arise (school science teaching, the definition of life) all should work conscientiously for resolution, and were evil invades (war, extremism) work to remove those elements. More light of reconciliation, less heat of disagreement.

Philosophy

Science has uncovered physical laws and enabled modern civilization. Religion, I have argued, provides a possible avenue to the above and beyond. Science thus receives acclaim due to its efficacy in explaining the direct world around us and in improving our living. Religion receives attention by addressing our natural and enduring questions about life after death, about the meaning or futility of our lives, and about the nature and role of the divine.

In contrast, philosophy might bring us to a yawn. Almost no one (well maybe a few) would spend a Sunday afternoon or Friday night reading Kant or Plato, or contemplating Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. And even when no sports or night life is available, many more people participate in religious ceremonies than partake of Kant, or Plato, or Gödel.

But consider justice. No doubt we agree justice matters. Almost without doubt we agree that determining what is just requires deep thought and serious deliberation. And most all would agree that justice, while possibly definable by science in terms of evolutionary pressures, presses upon us much too solemnly to leave its definition to the neurobiologists and evolutionary anthropologists, though they certainly can help.

And while religion and theology aid in defining justice, mankind possesses much too strong and active an intellect to not test the commands of religion against the reckonings of its own intelligence. And even with an acceptance of divine commands without question, such commands require interpretation, maybe extensive interpretation.

That then points to philosophy. Philosophy, in its possibly dreary and abstruse manner, focuses on questions such as justice and similar, questions in many cases at the foundation of our society and our lives. We just mentioned one such question – what is justice. Other questions include: What should we value? Do we have moral duties? What produces the good life? How do we reason properly? Can we have free will? What is existence? What is the role of government?

Reflex a moment. Almost everyone holds some core beliefs. For example, we likely judge that if we treat others fairly, they should treat us fairly, and similarly that if we receive fair treatment from a person, fair treatment is due to them.

But what is fairness? On the subway, who should offer their seat to whom? At work, what constitutes a fair wage? For taxes, what constitute a fair assessment? In education, what is a fair tuition for public college? When the charity solicitation comes in the mail or email, what is the fair step to take? Throw it out/delete it? Or give one’s entire savings to the concern? Probably neither, but what action then?

We face issues of fairness every day, and as we contemplate those issues, we engage in philosophy. As we evaluate candidates for office, we engage in philosophy (what comprises proper government?) As we reflect on the cost of medical insurance, we upon reflection think deeply and thus philosophically (what represents the best social arrangement for the good, in this case for good health?) As we bemoan the profits of big corporations, we engage in philosophy (what comprises an efficient and equitable market system?)

We might concede then that, at times, we face philosophical questions. But the average individual rarely runs off and pulls out the works of a philosopher to find answer. Has formal philosophy influenced actual events? Has this “method” of discovery impacted the world in a tangible way?

Yes.

Plato’s concept of universal forms influenced third century Augustine, who formalized many Christian doctrines, and those doctrines and Augustinian theology still underpin Christian thought. G.W.F. Hegel influenced Karl Marx, whose writings planted the seed of Communism, and Communism for good or bad rippled violently through the world.

Modern Science itself emerged from an intellectual cascade started, in part, by the philosophical writings of the Novatores in 16th century late Renaissance, writings which moved beyond an Aristotelian view of metaphysics. Writings of such as Bernardino Telesio, as obscure a name as that might be, fermented thought that lead Bacon, Descartes and Galileo to move science to an empirical, mathematical, observational basis.

The U.S. Constitution, of all things, provides an ultimate example of philosophy’s reach. We would agree, in terms of impact, that the document did not end up lost in the dark stacks of a dusty library, and that its content did not result from lofty, winsome discourse. No, the Constitution formed our government, installed the civic, legal and political processes at the foundation of our nation, and provided the framework for the freedom, democracy and growth that underpinned the success of the United States and the scope of its impact in the world. So no doubt the U.S. Constitution impacted our country, its people and the world.

But was it philosophy? Did and does the Constitution explore and stake out answers to philosophical questions? Absolutely. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the subsequent Amendments define the social contract between a people and its government; establish the distribution and limitations of government power; state the rights of individuals and groups; and delineate the nature of fair justice and judgment. In doing so, the documents apply, borrow and adapt the ideas of the philosophers John Locke, Thomas Hobbs, Charles de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mills and others.

The Supreme Court of the United States provides a corollary example of philosophy’s reach. Inevitably, questions of interpretation arise on the Constitution, its Amendments and the myriad of laws created through the government established by the Constitution. And while the Supreme Court certainly follows legal precedent and theory, and can turn to science for guidance, philosophy bears centrally on the questions before the Court. When does life begin? When and whether does a corporation possesses privileges as if it were an individual? What balance must be struck between the good of the whole (in terms of a compelling state interest) and the right of the individual?

The formal discipline of philosophy may be dry, and its formal writings inscrutable, but the importance of the questions philosophy addresses and the precision philosophy can force upon us as we explore answers, is undeniable.

Art

Is art really a method of discovery? Even when defined broadly across multiple mode of expression – music, dance, song, theatre, motion picture, photography, painting, sculpture, ballet, opera – does not art sit at or near the bottom of educational priorities, and near the top of the list for budget cuts? If education itself doesn’t see art as a main concern, how can we consider art a method of learning and discovery? Even literature has slide lower in priority as economic pressures and international competition push math, science, engineering and technology to the forefront.

But art does fit as a method of discovery. Art fits because in its essence art summons and invokes the totality of means by which human’s perceive. Art presents a holistic array of sensory, mental, and perceptual inputs. Art feeds us visual, aural, tactile, kinesthetic, symbolic and, if we include culinary arts, olfactory and taste sensations, in an integrated visceral, intellectual and emotional experience.

Take a live music act. The act envelopes us with rhythm, sound, harmony, lyrics, lighting, choreography and costume, driven by the enthusiasm and precision of the musicians, singers and dancers. Take a painting. The painting may startle us with a clashing collection of images, angles and colors; or evoke a calmness through a serene depiction of still life; or impress us with the grandeur of its size and the epic poses of its legendary historic heroes.

So in their essences, art mimics life and life mimics art.

Now certainly religion also touches our emotional side, and can heighten our awareness and heal our psyche. But religion, by and large, goes there by a certain path, a path of spirituality. This no way denigrates religion, but rather simply distinguishes what we generally mean by, and how we generally practice, religion.

Certainly also science can focus on human awareness. But to understand how the eye reacts to light, or how neurotransmitters flow under different emotional contexts, does not equal the experience of a golden sunset, or of the sight of a dear friend. And certainly scientific discovery often uncovers a deep symmetry and beauty in nature. But that beauty represents a corollary. Science aims to explain actuality, regardless of whether that explanation possesses beauty, or evokes reactions within us.

In contrast, art aims squarely to reflect the manner of human experience. As we experience, our minds integrate the profusion of incoming sensations into interwoven tapestries, and our memory stores those tapestries in interconnected webs. Art, by its design and essence, similarly presents us with a profusion of sensations, and our mind similarly weaves that profusion into a tapestry, then adds that tapestry to our memory and augments, rearranges, and adds connections to our existing mental web.

Now not all art reaches such noble heights to provide a gateway to new experience and appreciation. Some art simply provides entertainment; some serves just to soothe or enliven; some appears esoteric and beyond comprehension; some in cases rates no more than trash.

But a good TV documentary not only informs us of ancient cultures, but allows us to feel what daily living was like, bring us to awe at how far humanity has progressed but at the same time make us wonder what prevents our self-destruction. A good photograph enraptures us with the bond of an infant and mother, or pains us with the cringe of a wounded soldier. A good painting taunts us to see the familiar in a new interpretation, or draws out for us the essence of a scene. And so on.

Some may claim art only invokes experiences we have already had. That might be. But humans empathize instinctively, and our minds integrate new experiences without effort. Art, done well, taps into those innate facilities, and thus stimulates new experiences and augments existing ones. A poignant picture of a flood ravaged village can bring us sorrow, and instill a passion to act, just as if we were actually there.

Loose Ends

Those then, as I view it, comprise the four methods of discovery. But the four categories, some might say, omit some critical and important methods. Let’s then take that up – items that might be missing – and see if we can fit them into the four categories, reasonably. Here listed as bullets point are some critical modes of exploration, and under which of the four categories they could fit.

  • Mathematics: under Philosophy
  • Law and Economics: Also under Philosophy
  • Sociology/Psychology: Under Science
  • Perfumery/Horticulture: Under Art
  • Engineering/Technology: As implied above, under Science
  • Architecture/Product Design: At the border of Art and Science

Why these categorizations? Here is the reasoning:

  • While math does enable science, math’s essence is logic, a branch of philosophy
  • Law and economics do measure and record, but they aim at justice and equity
  • Consciousness and free will, metaphysical and even religious in part, are only a subset of sociology/psychology. Overall, the two disciplines follow scientific methods.
  • Perfumes and landscapes aim to evoke emotions, excite senses, and recall memories
  • Function is paramount for engineering/technology
  • In contrast, for architecture and design, form weighs more equally with function.

Keep in mind that the four categories of learning here do not represent discrete buckets, but rather divisions along a continuum. Just like colors of a rainbow blend, or a valley turns into a slope then a mountain, modes of exploration merge into a united tableau. Theology overlaps and uses philosophy, and scientific theorizing reaches into metaphysics, and the boundary between engineering and design blurs as innovators explore and integrate new technology into new forms.

Wrapping Up

How do we summarize then? What have we learned about learning?

We have learned that human learning, that our methods of exploration and discovery, encompass and involve a rich, multifaceted and deep set of activities. Human exploration and discovery evokes and engages all the aspects of our being – intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical.

How could we expect otherwise? Existence itself comprises a rich, multifaceted, deep, essentially infinite expanse. Would we think that one approach, or one avenue of discovery, would allow coverage and investigation of the enormous expanse of existence, and beyond?

Picture a group of individuals separated on a large deserted island, one in the jungle, one by the sea, one on a mountain top, one in a sandy expanse, seeking to regroup. Would they not use every means and mode available to tract their travel and to attempt communication with the others. Picture when engineers and astronomers send rovers to our neighboring planets. Would we not expect that rover to include the widest and most sophisticated array of measurement devices possible?

Similarly, for all mankind, as we picture humanity seeking to know and understand not just the terrain of a deserted island, or the characteristics of a neighboring planet, but the whole of existence, would we not expect mankind to bring to bear every means possible as it explores and discovers? We would.

And if we would, would we not also expect that in the plethora of explorations, along a plethora of paths, utilizing the differing methods of discovery here presented, that those explorations might, and would, discover different, at times apparently contradictory, things. We would similarly expect our separated individuals to find different, even contradictory, things, given the differing terrains of the island.

On the island, the imperative for survival demands resolution of the contradictions, not criticizing. Similarly, in our more complex real world, moderation, respect and appreciation should govern between explorers of knowledge as each pursues the differing means.

Just as each of the individuals on our deserted islands encounters and experiences different terrains and conditions, and just as those individuals may veer, at times even aimlessly, from a proper course, explorers for knowledge will encounter different realities, and even veer, at times aimlessly, in unproductive directions. Thus, all the more reason for moderation, respect and appreciation. Certainly, we can mutually correct, but in co-operation not confrontation.

Existence looms large. To explore and understand, we should seek to walk outward, into the unknown, helping each other along their path, even occasionally correcting, but not blocking or denigrating any path.

Payroll Oregon, Unique Aspects of Oregon Payroll Law and Practice

The Oregon State Agency that oversees the collection and reporting of State income taxes deducted from payroll checks is:

Department of Revenue
Revenue Bldg.
955 Center St., N.E.
Salem, OR 97301
(503) 945-8100
[http://www.dor.state.or.us/]

Oregon allows you to use the Federal W-4 form to calculate state income tax withholding.

Not all states allow salary reductions made under Section 125 cafeteria plans or 401(k) to be treated in the same manner as the IRS code allows. In Oregon cafeteria plans are not taxable for income tax calculation; not taxable for unemployment insurance purposes if used to purchase medical or life insurance 401(k) plan deferrals are not taxable for income taxes; taxable for unemployment purposes.

In Oregon supplemental wages are taxed at a 9% flat rate.

W-2s are not required in Oregon unless state requests them.

The Oregon State Unemployment Insurance Agency is:

Employment Department
Unemployment Insurance Tax
875 Union St., N.E.
Salem, OR 97311
(503) 947-1488
http://www.emp.state.or.us/

The State of Oregon taxable wage base for unemployment purposes is wages up to $27,000.00.

Oregon has optional reporting of quarterly wages on magnetic media.

Unemployment records must be retained in Oregon for a minimum period of three years. This information generally includes: name; social security number; dates of hire, rehire and termination; wages by period; payroll pay periods and pay dates; date and circumstances of termination.

The Oregon State Agency charged with enforcing the state wage and hour laws is:

Bureau of Labor and Industries
Wage and Hour Division
800 N.E. Oregon St., Ste. 1070
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 731-4200
http://www.boli.state.or.us/

The minimum wage in Oregon is $7.05 per hour.

The general provision in Oregon concerning paying overtime in a non-FLSA covered employer is one and one half times regular rate after 40-hour week (10-hour day in some industries).

Oregon State new hire reporting requirements are that every employer must report every new hire and rehire. The employer must report the federally required elements of:

  • Employee’s name
  • Employee’s address
  • Employee’s social security number
  • Employer’s name
  • Employers address
  • Employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

This information must be reported within 20 days of the hiring or rehiring.
The information can be sent as a W4 or equivalent by mail, fax or electronically.
There is no penalty for a late report in Oregon.

The Oregon new hire-reporting agency can be reached at 503-378-2868 or on the web at http://dcs.state.or.us/employers.htm

Oregon does not allow compulsory direct deposit

Oregon requires the following information on an employee’s pay stub:

  • Gross and Net Earnings
  • straight time and overtime pay
  • hours worked
  • pay period dates
  • employer’s name
  • employer’s address
  • employer’s phone number
  • annual pay statement for previous year by March 10 if employee requests
  • itemized deductions

Oregon requires that employee be paid no less often than every 35 days.

In Oregon there are no statutory requirements concerning the lag time between when the services are performed and when the employee must be paid.

Oregon payroll law requires that involuntarily terminated employees must be paid their final pay by the end of the first business day after discharge or termination. Voluntarily terminated employees must be paid their final pay earlier of next regular payday or 5 business days; immediately if 48 hours’ notice is given.

Deceased employee’s wages must of $10,000 be paid to the surviving spouse, children, or guardians (in equal shares).

Escheat laws in Oregon require that unclaimed wages be paid over to the state after three years.

The employer is further required in Oregon to keep a record of the wages abandoned and turned over to the state for a period of 3 years.

Oregon payroll law mandates no more than $7.05 may be used as a tip credit.

In Oregon the payroll laws covering mandatory rest or meal breaks are only that all employees must have 30 minutes rest after five hours of work; 10 minutes rest each 4 hours.

Oregon statute requires that wage and hour records be kept for a period of not less than two years. These records will normally consist of at least the information required under FLSA.

The Oregon agency charged with enforcing Child Support Orders and laws is:

Department of Justice
Division of Child Support
Department of Human Resources
1495 Edgewater St., NW
Salem, OR 97304
(503) 986-6090
http://dcs.state.or.us/

Oregon has the following provisions for child support deductions:

  • When to start Withholding? Next payday after 5 days after receipt.
  • When to send Payment? Within 7 days of Payday.
  • When to send Termination Notice? next payday
  • Maximum Administrative Fee? $5 per month.
  • Withholding Limits? 50% of disposable earnings.

Please note that this article is not updated for changes that can and will happen from time to time.

Nevada Drug Possession, Sale and Trafficking Laws

The impact for a drug conviction can be severe for misdemeanor and felony offenses in Nevada. With the widespread use of background checks, a conviction can shut many doors for future employment opportunities. Certain fields may be especially thorough with background checks and will disqualify individuals with drug convictions. This includes many healthcare fields, law enforcement agencies, and other government bodies. Given what is at stake, it is important to understand the Nevada drug laws, even if you are being represented by a defense attorney.

Currently, Nevada laws severely punish individuals arrested for possession, manufacturing, cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs. Commonly used drugs in this list include cocaine, heroin, opium, LSD, ecstasy and a variety of other narcotics. Chapter 453 of the Nevada Controlled Substances Act defines the schedule of drugs, offenses and penalties in the state. Some of the defined offenses are:

  • NRS 453.316 – Maintaining a place for unlawful sale, gift or use of a controlled substance
  • NRS 453.321 – Offer, attempt, or commission of unauthorized acts relating to controlled substances
  • NRS 453.322 – Offer, attempt, or commission of manufacturing or compounding of controlled substances
  • NRS 453.331 – Distribution of controlled substances, use of unauthorized registration number and possession of signed blank prescription forms
  • NRS 453.333 – Second or subsequence offense for selling a controlled substance to a minor
  • NRS 453.336 – Unlawful possession not for purpose of sale
  • NRS 453.337 – Unlawful possession for sale of flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and schedule I or II substances
  • NRS 453.338 – Unlawful possession for sale of schedule III, IV, or V substances
  • NRS 453.3385 – Trafficking in controlled substances Trafficking in controlled substances: Rohypnol, GHB, and schedule I substances (not including marijuana)
  • NRS 453.339 – Marijuana trafficking

Penalties for drug crimes in Nevada can vary, depending on the specific criminal offense, circumstances of the arrest, amount of illegal drugs involved, previous criminal history of the alleged offender, and strength of the defense or prosecution’s case. Under Nevada’s Controlled Substances act, the most common offenses may be punished as follows:

Drug Possession, Not For Sale

  • Class E Felony (1st or 2nd offense,schedule I, II, III, or IV) – 1 to 4 years in state prison or probation and/or up to $5,000 in fines
  • Class D Felony (3rd or subsequent offense, schedule I, II, III, or IV) – between 1 and 4 years in state prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines
  • Class E Felony (1st offense, schedule V) – between 1 and 4 years in prison or probation and/or fines up to $5,000
  • Class D Felony (2nd or subsequent offense, schedule V) – 1 to 4 years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines

Unlawful Possession of Schedule I or II Drugs, Rohypnol, or GHB

  • 1st offense, category D felony – 1 to 4 years in state prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines
  • 2nd offense, category C felony – between 1 and 4 non-probational years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $10,000 of fines
  • 3rd or subsequent offense, category B felony – punishable by 3 to 15 non-probational years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000 for each offense

Unlawful Possession for Sale of Schedule III, IV, or V Drugs

  • 1st and second offense, category D felony – punishable by 1 to 4 non-probational years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines
  • 3rd or subsequent offense, category C felony – can be punished by 1 to 5 non-probational years in Nevada state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines

Drug Trafficking (Schedule I)

  • Category B Felony (between 4 and 14 grams) – Punishable by 1 to 6 non-probational (mandatory prison) years in Nevada State Prison and/or up to $50,000 in fines
  • Category B Felony (between 14 and 28 grams) – Punishable by 2 to 15 non-probational (mandatory prison) years in Nevada State Prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines
  • Category A Felony (28 grams or more) – Punishable by 25 non-probational (mandatory prison) years to life and a fine of up to $500,000

However, Nevada has surprisingly moved to a certain level of acceptance regarding marijuana, along with many other states in the country. Nevada decriminalized the use of medical marijuana in 2001 when 65% of the state’s voters moved to amend the state’s constitution to recognize its legitimate use in a medical capacity. However, to remain in compliance with the state law, medical marijuana users must have documented permission from a physician.

Once registered with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services: State Health Division, the individual can use, possess and grow marijuana to a certain extent (up to 1 ounce possession and up to 7 plants cultivated, only 3 of which can be mature). Note that Nevada has not decriminalized the use of marijuana for the general population like other states such as California, Connecticut and Mississippi have.

Currently there are several legal battles going on regarding the medical marijuana laws and how people can obtain medical marijuana. As the law stands today a person must produce their own medical marijuana to legally obtain medical marijuana. A person cannot get it from a centralized location like a dispensary. Additionally, even though the State of Nevada has approved the use of medical marijuana, the Federal government has not, and is starting to invoke Federal Law against those people using and growing medical marijuana. Be aware that even though you might be following State laws you can be arrested and convicted for violating Federal laws.

Possession of marijuana by non-approved medical users is still a serious criminal offense. Under Nevada’s Controlled Substances Act, possession of non-medical marijuana offense can result in the following punishments:

Possession of 1 Ounce or Less of Marijuana

  • 1st offense, misdemeanor – Fine up to $600 or drug abuse treatment examination
  • 2nd offense, misdemeanor – Fine up to $1000 or drug treatment/rehabilitation program
  • 3rd offense, gross misdemeanor – Up to 1 year in county jail and/or up to $2000 in fines
  • 4th or subsequent offense, category E felony – between 1 and 4 years in state prison or probation and/or a fine up to $5,000

It’s important to remember that an arrest for a drug-related crime does not necessarily mean a conviction will follow, regardless if the individual was charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. If you have a defense attorney experienced in Nevada drug cases, he or she can use many of the details surrounding the case to your benefit. This can include improper search and investigation procedure, lack of probable cause to make a stop (in cases of vehicular arrests), constitutional right violations, competency of witnesses, and other miscellaneous facts.

Pleading guilty to a drug crime does not necessarily mean the defendant will receive a lighter sentence. Many individuals facing this situation also find it beneficial to retain an attorney from the moment of arrest, regardless of their state of innocence. Prosecution and law enforcement officials do not have the best interests of the accused in mind and details may be overlooked in their pursuit of justice. It is in your best interest to consult with a Nevada defense attorney about your legal options.

How Does the Israeli Military Justice System Function?

Israel has a military justice system that operates within the IDF but is professionally independent. Any allegations regarding offences committed by IDF personnel are dealt with through this multi-tiered system, including allegations regarding improper conduct on the battlefield.

The IDF system of review includes three main components: the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division (“MPCID”), the Military Advocate General’s Corps (“MAG”), and the Military Courts. The MAG Corps and Military Courts are both independent from the IDF command hierarchy, are subject only to the law, and are also entirely independent from one another. IDF standing orders (Supreme Command Order 2.0613) clearly state that in executing its powers and authority, the MAG is subject only to the law, and is not subject to the IDF chain of command. On professional matters, the MAG is guided by the Attorney General.

Any person may file a complaint with the Military Police in reference to misconduct by IDF personnel at any civilian police station in the country. Gaza residents can file complaints directly in writing through a NGO acting on their behalf or via the liaison mechanism that works vis-à-vis the Palestinian civilian population.

Generally, the MPCID investigates allegations of criminal offences committed by soldiers. When necessary, consultations are held with a Military Prosecutor from the MAG Corps regarding the proper handling of the case. Where circumstances do not necessarily point to a criminal offence, the Military Advocate General will first review the findings of a field investigation governed by the Military Justice Law. Under the law and IDF standing orders, the findings of field investigations are relayed to the MAG for review. If, after examining the aforementioned material, the MAG believes the facts indicate a reasonable suspicion that an offence may have been committed which justifies the opening of a criminal investigation, he will launch a full criminal investigation of the incident.

The authority to prosecute soldiers for offences connected to their military service lies with the MAG Corps. In cases where sufficient evidence has been collected according to the requirements of Israeli Penal Law, indictments are filed in the Military Courts.

A significant development in the investigation of alleged wrongdoing by IDF soldiers was the establishment, in October 2007, of the Office of the Military Advocate for Operational Affairs. This office is charged with investigating cases of operational misconduct by IDF soldiers against Palestinian civilians, such as mistreatment of prisoners, pillaging or theft, use of unnecessary force, abuse of authority etc.

The rules of evidence in the military legal courts system of the IDF are similar to the rules of evidence in Israeli criminal courts. When there is sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable basis for conviction of a soldier, an indictment may be filed against the soldier. As a general policy, the Military Prosecution seeks substantial sentences in cases of offences against the Palestinian civilian population and, in appropriate cases, appeals lenient sentences to the Military Court of Appeals. Traditionally, however, the Military Courts deal sternly with soldiers convicted of offences against civilians.