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Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, also the third book in the Torah (five books of Moses). The English name is derived from the Latin Liber Leviticus which is from the Greek (το) Λευιτικόν (i.e., βιβλίον). In Jewish writings it is customary to cite the book by its first word, Vayikra ויקרא, "and He called". (Vayikra is also the name of the first weekly Torah reading or parshah in the book.) The main points of the book are concerned with legal rules, and priestly ritual. Despite the English title of the work, it is important to note that the book makes a very strong distinction between the priesthood, who are identified as being descended from Aaron, and mere Levites.



The book is generally considered to consist of two large sections, both of which contain several mitzvot, and thus the work constitutes a major source of Jewish law.

The first part Leviticus 1-16, and Leviticus 27, constitutes the main portion of the Priestly Code, which describes the details of rituals, and of worship, as well as details of ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness. Within this section are:

  • Laws regarding the regulations for different types of sacrifice (Leviticus 1-7):
    • Burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and thank-offerings (Leviticus 1-3)
    • Sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings (Leviticus 4-5)
    • Priestly duties and rights concerning the offering of sacrifices (Leviticus 6-7)
  • The practical application of the sacrificial laws, within a narrative of the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8-10)
    • Aaron's first offering for himself and the people (Leviticus 8)
    • The case law lesson of strange fire being offered by Nadab and Abihu, and their subsequent execution by YHWH for doing so (Leviticus 9-10)
  • Laws concerning purity and impurity (Leviticus 11-16)
    • Laws about clean animals|clean and unclean animals (Leviticus 11)
    • Laws concerning ritual cleanliness after childbirth (Leviticus 12)
    • Laws concerning tzaraath of people, and of clothes and houses, often translated as leprosy, and mildew, respectively (Leviticus 13-14)
    • Laws concerning bodily discharges (such as blood, pus, etc.) and purification (Leviticus 15)
    • Laws regarding a day of national atonement, Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16)
  • Laws concerning the commutation of vows (Leviticus 27)

The second part, Leviticus 17-26, is known as the Holiness Code, and places particular, and noticeable, emphasis on holiness, and the holy. It is notably more of a miscellany of laws. Within this section are:

  • Laws concerning idolatry, the slaughter of animals, dead animals, and the consumption of blood (Leviticus 17)
  • Laws concerning sexual conduct, sorcery, and moloch (Leviticus 18, and also Leviticus 20, in which penalties are given) 'Thou shall not grind their hips, like the sow of the field.'
  • Laws concerning molten gods, peace-offerings, scraps of the harvest, fraud, the deaf, blind, elderly, and poor, poisoning the well, hate, self harm, shaving, prostitution, sabbaths, sorcery, familiars, strangers, and just weights and measure (Leviticus 19)
  • Laws concerning priestly conduct, and prohibitions against the disabled, ill, and superfluously blemished, from becoming priests, or becoming sacrifices, for descendants of Aaron, and animals, respectively (Leviticus 21-22)
  • Laws concerning the observation of the annual feasts, and the sabbath, (Leviticus 23)
  • Laws concerning the altar of incense (Leviticus 24:1-9)
  • The case law lesson of a blasphemer being stoned to death, and other applications of the death penalty (Leviticus 24:10-23)
  • Laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years (Leviticus 25)
  • A hortatory conclusion to the section, giving promises regarding obedience to these commandments, and warnings and threats for those that might disobey them.

These ordinances, in the book, are said to have been delivered in the space of a month, specifically the first month of the second year after the exodus. A major Chiastic structure runs through practically all of this book. For more detailed information see the article on Chiastic structure.

Religious interpretation

Jewish views

Orthodox Jews believe that this entire book is the word of God, dictated by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. In Talmudic literature, there is evidence that this is the first book of the Tanakh which was taught, in the Rabbinic system of education in Talmudic times. A possible reason may be that, of all the books of the Torah, Leviticus is the closest to being purely devoted to mitzvot and its study is thus able to go hand-in-hand with their performance.

There are two main Midrashim on Leviticus - the halakhic one (Sifra) and a more aggadic one (Vayikra Rabbah).

Christian views

After the Christian era began, parts of Leviticus began to be interpreted, by Christians, as prophecy of the coming of their messiah, Jesus. To many Christian readers, Leviticus is not literally about law or regulations for worship, but instead a prophecy prefiguring Jesus, regarding in particular, his crucifixion as a sin offering. This interpretation is scripturally referred to within the Epistle to the Hebrews, and Leviticus is said to contain in its law a gospel of the grace of God.

The third book of the Pentateuch; so called in the Vulgate, after the LXX., because it treats chiefly of the Levitical service.

In the first section of the book (Leviticus 1-17), which exhibits the worship itself, there is,

(1) A series of laws (Leviticus 1-7) regarding sacrifices, burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and thank-offerings (Leviticus 1-3), sin-offerings and trespass-offerings (Leviticus 4; 5), followed by the law of the priestly duties in connection with the offering of sacrifices (Leviticus 6; 7).

(2) An historical section (Leviticus 8-10), giving an account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8); Aaron's first offering for himself and the people (Leviticus 9); Nadab and Abihu's presumption in offering “strange fire before YHWH,” and their punishment (Leviticus 10).

(3) Laws concerning purity, and the sacrifices and ordinances for putting away impurity (Leviticus 11 -16). An interesting fact may be noted here. Canon Tristram, speaking of the remarkable discoveries regarding the flora and fauna of the Holy Land by the Palestine Exploration officers, makes the following statement: “Take these two catalogues of the clean and unclean animals in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. There are eleven in Deuteronomy which do not occur in Leviticus, and these are nearly all animals and birds which are not found in Egypt or the Holy Land, but which are numerous in the Arabian desert. They are not named in Leviticus a few weeks after the departure from Egypt; but after the people were thirty-nine years in the desert they are named, a strong proof that the list in Deuteronomy was written at the end of the journey, and the list in Leviticus at the beginning. It fixes the writing of that catalogue to one time and period only, viz., that when the children of Israel were familiar with the fauna and the flora of the desert” (Palest. Expl. Quart., Jan. 1887).

(4) Laws marking the separation between Israel and the heathen (Leviticus 17-20).

(5) Laws about the personal purity of the priests, and their eating of the holy things (Leviticus 20; 21); about the offerings of Israel, that they were to be without blemish (Leviticus 22:17-33); and about the due celebration of the great festivals (Leviticus 23; 25).

(6) Then follow promises and warnings to the people regarding obedience to these commandments, closing with a section on vows.

The various ordinances contained in this book were all delivered in the space of a month (Compare Exodus 40:17; Numbers 1:1), the first month of the second year after the Exodus. It is the third book of Moses.

No book contains more of the very words of God. He is almost throughout the whole of it the direct speaker. This book is a prophecy of things to come, a shadow whereof the substance is Christ and his kingdom. The principles on which it is to be interpreted are laid down in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It contains in its complicated ceremonial the gospel of the grace of God.

I. General Data.

1. Name:

The third book of the Pentateuch is generally named by the Jews according to the first word, ויּקרא, wayyiḳrā' (Origen Ούικρά, Ouikrá, by the Septuagint called according to its contents Λευιτικόν, Leuitikón, or Λευειτικόν, Leueitikón, by the Vulgate, accordingly, “Leviticus” (i.e. Liber), sometimes “Leviticum”). The Jews have also another name taken from its contents, namely, תּורת כּהנים, tōrath kōhănīm, “Law of the Priests.”

2. Character of Book:

As a matter of fact ordinances pertaining to the priesthood, to the Levitical system, and to the cults constitute a most important part of this book; but specifically religious and ethical commands, as we find them, e.g. in Leviticus 18 through 20, are not wanting; and there are also some historical sections, which, however, are again connected with the matter referring to the cults, namely the consecration of the priests in Leviticus 8 and 9, the sin and the punishment of two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1 ff), and the account of the stoning of a blasphemer (Leviticus 24:10 ff). Of the Levites, on the other hand, the book does not treat at all. They are mentioned only once and that incidentally in Leviticus 25:32 ff. The laws are stated to have been given behar ṣīnay (Leviticus 7:38; Leviticus 25:1; Leviticus 26:46; Leviticus 27:34), which expression, on account of Leviticus 11, in which YHWH is described as speaking to Moses out of the tent of meeting, is not to be translated “upon” but “at” Mount Sinai. The connection of this book with the preceding and following books, i.e. Exodus and Numbers, which is commonly acknowledged as being the case, at least in some sense, leaves for the contents of Leviticus exactly the period of a single month, since the last chronological statement of Exodus 40:17 as the time of the erection of the tabernacle mentions the 1st day of the 1st month of the 2nd year of the Exodus, and Numbers 1:1 takes us to the 1st day of the 2nd month of the same year. Within this time of one month the consecration of the priests fills out 8 days (Leviticus 8:33; Leviticus 9:1). A sequence in time is indicated only by Leviticus 16:1, which directly connects with what is reported in Leviticus 10 concerning Nadab and Abihu. In the same way the ordinances given in Leviticus 10:6 ff are connected with the events described in 8:1 through 10:5. The laws are described as being revelations of YHWH, generally given to Moses (compare Leviticus 1:1; Leviticus 4:1; Leviticus 5:14; Leviticus 6:19, Leviticus 6:24 (Hebrew 12, 17); Leviticus 7:22, Leviticus 7:28, etc.); sometimes to Moses and Aaron (compare Leviticus 11:1; Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 14:33; Leviticus 15:1, etc.), and, rarely, to Aaron alone (Leviticus 10:8). In Leviticus 10:12 ff, Moses gives some directions to the priests, which are based on a former revelation (compare Leviticus 6:16 (Hebrew 9) ff; Leviticus 7:37 ff). In Leviticus 10:16 ff, we have a difference of opinion between Moses and Aaron, or rather his sons, which was decided on the basis of an independent application of principles given in Leviticus. Most of these commands are to be announced to Israel (Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 7:23, Leviticus 7:19; Leviticus 9:3 ff; Leviticus 11:2; Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 15:2; Leviticus 18:2, etc.); others to the priests (Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:25 (Hebrew 2, 18); Leviticus 21:2; Leviticus 22:2, etc.); or to the priests and the Israelites (Leviticus 17:2; Leviticus 22:18), while the directions in reference to the Day of Atonement, with which Aaron was primarily concerned (Leviticus 16:2), beginning with Leviticus 16:29, without a special superscription, are undeniably changed into injunctions addressed to all Israel; compare also Leviticus 21:24 and Leviticus 21:2. As the Book of Exodus treats of the communion which God offers on His part to Israel and which culminates at last in His dwelling in the tent of meeting (Exodus 40:34 ff; compare under Exodus, I., 2.), the Book of Leviticus contains the ordinances which were to be carried out by the Israelites in religious, ethical and cultural matters, in order to restore and maintain this communion with God, notwithstanding the imperfections and the guilt of the Israelites. And as this book thus with good reason occupies its well established place in the story of the founding and in the earliest history of theocracy, so too even a casual survey and intelligent glance at the contents of the book will show that we have here a well-arranged and organic unity, a conviction which is only confirmed and strengthened by the presentation of the structure of the book in detail (see under II., below).

3. Unity of Book: Law of Holiness:

As a rule, critics are accustomed first of all to regard Leviticus 17 through 25 or 26 as an independent section, and find in these chapters a legal code that is considered to have existed at one time as a group by itself, before it was united with the other parts.

It is indeed true that a series of peculiarities have been found in these chapters of Leviticus. To these peculiarities belongs the frequent repetition of the formula: “I am YHWH your God” (Leviticus 18:2, Leviticus 18:4; Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 19:4, etc.); or “I am YHWH” (Leviticus 18:5, Leviticus 18:6, Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 19:14, Leviticus 19:16, etc.), or “I am YHWH ... who hath separated you” (Leviticus 20:24), or “who sanctifieth you” (Leviticus 20:8; Leviticus 21:8, Leviticus 21:15, Leviticus 21:23, etc.). To these peculiarities belong the references in words, or, in fact, to the land of Canaan, into which Israel is to be led (Leviticus 18:3, Leviticus 18:14 ff; Leviticus 19:23 ff, 29; Leviticus 20:22 ff; 23; 25), and also to Egypt, out of which He has led the people (Leviticus 18:3; Leviticus 19:34; Leviticus 22:33; Leviticus 26:13, Leviticus 26:15, etc.); as, further, the demand for sanctification (Leviticus 19:2), or the warning against desecration (Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 21:23, etc.), both based on the holiness of YHWH. In addition, a number of peculiar expressions are repeatedly found in these chapters. Because of their contents these chapters have, since Klostermann, generally been designated by the letter H (i.e. Law of Holiness); or, according to the suggestion of Dillmann, by the letter S (i.e. Sinaitic Law), because, according to Leviticus 25:1; Leviticus 26:46, they are said to have been given at Mt. Sinai, and because in certain critical circles it was at one time claimed that these chapters contain old laws from the Mosaic period, although these had been changed in form. These earlier views have apparently now been discarded by the critics entirely.

Examination of Critical Theory.

We, however, do not believe that it is at all justifiable to separate these laws as a special legal code from the other chapters. In the first place, these peculiarities, even if such are found here more frequently than elsewhere, are not restricted to these chapters exclusively. The Decalogue (Exodus 20:2) begins with the words, “I am YHWH thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 22:31 contains the demand, “Ye shall be holy men unto me.” Exodus 29:44, Exodus 29:45 contains a promise that God will dwell in the midst of the Israelites, so that they shall learn that He is YHWH, their God, who has brought them out of Egypt in order to dwell in their midst as YHWH, their God (compare, further, Exodus 6:6-8; Exodus 31:13 f; Leviticus 10:10, Leviticus 10:11; Leviticus 11:44; Numbers 15:37-41; Numbers 33:52 f, 55 f; Deuteronomy 14:2, Deuteronomy 14:21). It is a more than risky undertaking to find in these and in other sections scattered remnants of H, especially if these are seen to be indispensable in the connection in which they are found, and when no reason can be given why they should be separated from this collection of laws. Then, too, the differences of opinion on the part of the critics in assigning these different parts to H, do not make us favorably inclined to the whole hypothesis. Hoffmann, especially (Die wichtigsten Instanzen gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese, 16 ff), has shown how impossible it is to separate H from the other ordinances of the Priestly Code in so radical a manner. In saying this we do not at all wish to deny the peculiar character of these chapters, only we do not believe that Leviticus 17 can be added or Leviticus 26 can be taken away from this section; for in Leviticus 17 all the characteristic peculiarities of the Holiness Law are lacking; and, on the other hand, in Leviticus 26 the expression “I am YHWH your God,” or a similar one in Leviticus 26:12, Leviticus 26:13, Leviticus 26:14 f, is found. The subscription in Leviticus 26:46 connects Leviticus 26 with the preceding; and, further, the reference to the Sabbatical year as described in Leviticus 25, found in Leviticus 26:34 f, 43, is not to be overlooked. Finally, also, other legal codes, such as that in the first Book of the Covenant (Exodus 23:20-33) and that of Dt (27:11-28:68) close with the offer of a blessing or a curse.

The chapters under consideration (Leviticus 18 through 26) are most closely connected with each other solely through their contents, which have found expression in a particular form, without these facts being sufficient to justify the claim of their being a separate legal code. For since in Leviticus 1 through 17 all those things which separate the Israelites from their God have been considered and bridged over (compare Leviticus 1 through 7, the laws concerning sacrifices; Leviticus 8 through 10, the mediatorship of the priests; Leviticus 11 through 15, the unclean things; Leviticus 16, the Day of Atonement; Leviticus 17, the use made of blood), we find in Leviticus 18 through 26 an account of the God-pleasing conduct, which admits of nothing that desecrates; namely, Leviticus 18 through 20 contain laws dealing with marriage and chastity and other matters of a religious, ethical or cultural kind, together with the punishments that follow their transgression; Leviticus 21 f determine the true character of the priests and of the sacred oblations; Leviticus 23 f, the consecration of the seasons, of life and death, etc.; Leviticus 25, the Sabbath and the Jubilee year; Leviticus 26 contains the offer of a blessing or a curse. Leviticus 1 through 17 have, as it were, a negative character; Leviticus 18 through 26 a positive character. In Leviticus 1 through 17 the consciousness of what is unclean, imperfect and guilty is awakened and the possibility of their removal demonstrated; while in Leviticus 18 through 26 the norm of a holy life is set forth. Even if these two parts at certain places show so great a likeness that the occurrence of an interchange of ordinances could be regarded as possible, nevertheless the peculiar character of each part is plainly recognized; and this is also a very essential argument for the view that both parts have one and the same author, who intentionally brought the two parts into closer connection and yet separated the one from the other. On this supposition the peculiarities of Leviticus 18 through 26 are sufficiently explained, and also the positive contents of these chapters and the fact that just these chapters are referred to in pre-exilic literature oftener than is the case with Leviticus 1 through 17, and particularly the close connection between Ezekiel and H is to be regarded as a consequence of the common tendency of both authors and not as the result of their having used a common source (see Ezekiel, II, 2). In Leviticus 26:46 we have what is clearly a conclusion, which corresponds to Leviticus 25:1; Leviticus 7:37 f; Leviticus 1:1, and accordingly regards Leviticus 1 through 26 as a unity; while Leviticus 27, which treats of vows and of tithes, with its separate subscription in Leviticus 27:34, shows that it is an appendix or a supplement, which is, however, in many ways connected with the rest of the book, so that this addition cannot, without further grounds, be regarded as pointing to another author.

II. Structure.

1. Modern Analyses:

Modern criticism ascribes the entire Book of Leviticus, being a special legal code, to the Priestly Code (P). The questions which arise in connection with this claim will be discussed under III, below. At this point we must first try to awaken a consciousness of the fact, that in this special particular, too, the documentary theory has entered upon the stage of total disintegration; that the reasons assigned for the separation of the sources are constantly becoming more arbitrary and subjective; and that the absurd consequences to which they consistently lead from the very outset arouse distrust as to the correctness of the process. Just as in the historical parts the critics have for long been no longer content with J (Jahwist) and E (Elohist), but have added a J1 and Later additions to J, an E1 and Later additions to E, and as Sievers and Gunkel have gone farther, and in detail have completely shattered both J and E into entirely separate fragments (see Genesis, So the Priestly Code (P), too, is beginning to experience the same fate. It is high time that, for both the historical and the legal sections, the opposite course be taken, and that we turn from the dismemberment to the combination of these documents; that we seek out and emphasize those features which, in form and content, unite the text into a clear unity. For this reason we lay the greatest stress on these in this section, which deals with the structure of the book, and which treats of the matter (1) negatively and (2) positively (see also Exodus, II.).

(1) Theories of Disintegration.

We have already seen in the article Day Of Atonement in connection with Leviticus 16 an example of these attempts at dissection, and here still add several examples in order to strengthen the impression on this subject.

(a) General Considerations:

If we for the present disregard the details, then, according to Bertholet (Kurzer Hand-Kommentar zum Alten Testament), not only Leviticus 17 through 26 (see, above, under I.) at one time existed as a separate legal corpus, but also the sacrificial legislation in Leviticus 1 through 7, and also the laws concerning the clean and the unclean in Leviticus 11 through 15. Concerning Leviticus 16 see above. Then, too, Leviticus 27 is regarded as a supplement and is ascribed to a different author. Finally, the so-called “fundamental document” of P (marked Pg) contained only parts from Leviticus 9 f (also a few matters from Leviticus 8), as also one of the three threads of Leviticus 16, for Leviticus 8 through 10, it is said, described the consecration of the priests demanded in Exodus 25 ff, which also are regarded as a part of Pg, and Leviticus 16:1 is claimed to connect again with Leviticus 10 (compare on this point Day Of Atonement). All these separate parts of Leviticus (i.e. Leviticus 1 through 7; 8 through 10; 11 through 15; 16; 17 through 26; 27) are further divided into a number of more or less independent subparts; thus, e.g., Leviticus 1 through 7, containing the sacrificial laws, are made to consist of two parts, namely, Leviticus 1 through 5 and Leviticus 6 through 7; or the laws concerning the clean and the unclean in Leviticus 11 through 15 are divided into the separate pieces, Leviticus 11; Leviticus 12:1-8; 13:1 through 46; and these are regarded as having existed at one time and in a certain manner independently and separated from each other. But how complicated in detail the composition is considered to be, we can see from Leviticus 17 through 26.

(b) Leviticus 17:1 Considered in Detail:

While Baentsch (Hand-Kommentar zum Alten Testament) accepts, to begin with, three fundamental strata (H1 = Leviticus 18 through 20 and certain portions from Leviticus 23 through 25; H2 = Leviticus 21 f; H3 = Leviticus 17), Bertholet, too (op. cit., x), regards the development of these chapters as follows: “In detail we feel justified in separating the following pieces:

(i) Leviticus 17:3, Leviticus 17:4 (5, 7a), 8, 9, 10-14;

(ii) Leviticus 18:7-10, Leviticus 18:12-20, Leviticus 18:22 f; and this united with (iii) Leviticus 19:3 f, 11 f, 27 f, 30, 31, 35, 36, which was probably done by the author of

(iii). The following were inserted by the person who united these parts, namely, Leviticus 18:6, Leviticus 18:27, Leviticus 18:25, Leviticus 18:26, Leviticus 18:28, Leviticus 18:30;

(iv) Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 19:10, Leviticus 19:13-18, Leviticus 19:19, Leviticus 19:29, Leviticus 19:32;

(v) Leviticus 19:5-8, Leviticus 19:23-26;

(vi) Leviticus 20:2(3), 6(27);

(vii) Leviticus 20:9, Leviticus 20:10-21; Leviticus 19:20;

(viii) Leviticus 21:1-5, Leviticus 21:7, Leviticus 21:9-15, Leviticus 21:17-24; Leviticus 22:3, Leviticus 22:8, Leviticus 22:10-14, Leviticus 22:18-25, Leviticus 22:27-30;

(ix) Leviticus 23:10-20, Leviticus 23:39-43;

(x) Leviticus 24:15-22, except verses 16aβb;

(xi) Leviticus 25:2-7 (4), 18-22, 35-38, 39, 40a, 42 f, 47, 53, 15;

(xii) Leviticus 25:8, Leviticus 25:9, Leviticus 25:10, Leviticus 25:13, Leviticus 25:14-16, Leviticus 25:17, Leviticus 25:24 f.

In uniting these pieces Rh (the Redactor of the Law of Holiness) seems to have added de suo the following: Leviticus 17:5 (beginning); Leviticus 18:2-5, Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 18:24, Leviticus 18:26,Leviticus 18:29; Leviticus 19:33 f, 37; Leviticus 20:4 f, 7 f, 22-26; Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 22:2, Leviticus 22:9, Leviticus 22:15 f, 31-33; Leviticus 23:22; Leviticus 25:11 f; Leviticus 26:1 f. At the same time he united with these an older parenetic section, 26:3-45, which, by inserting Leviticus 26:10, Leviticus 26:34 f, 39-43, he changed into a concluding address of this small legal code. All the rest that is found in Leviticus 17 through 26 seems to be the result of a revision in the spirit of the Priestly Code (P), not, however, as though originally it all came from the hand of Rp (Redactor P). That he rather added and worked together older pieces from P (which did not belong to Pg) is seen from an analysis of Leviticus 23... As far as the time when these parts were worked together is concerned, we have a reliable terminus ad quem in a comparison of Nehemiah 8:14-18 with Leviticus 23:36 (P), 39 ff (H). Only we must from the outset remember, that still, after the uniting of these different parts, the marks of the editorial pen are to be noticed in the following Leviticus 17 through 26, i.e. that after this union a number of additions were yet made to the text. This is sure as far as Leviticus 23:26-32 is concerned, and is probable as to Leviticus 24:1-9, Leviticus 24:10-14, Leviticus 24:23; Leviticus 25:32-34; and that this editorial work even went so far as to put sections from P in the place of parts of H can possibly be concluded from Leviticus 24:1-9.”

(c) Extravagance of Critical Treatment:

This is also true of all the other sections, as can be seen by a reference to the books of Bertholet and Baentsch. What should surprise us most, the complicated and external manner in which our Biblical text, which has such a wonderful history back of it, is declared by the critics to have originated, or the keenness of the critics, who, with the ease of child's play, are able to detect and trace out this growth and development of the text, and can do more than hear the grass grow? But this amazement is thrust into the background when we contemplate what becomes of the Bible text under the manipulations of the critics. The compass of this article makes it impossible to give even as much as a general survey of the often totally divergent and contradictory schemes of Baentsch and Bertholet and others on the distribution of this book among different sources; and still less possible is it to give a criticism of these in detail. But this critical method really condemns itself more thoroughly than any examination of its claims would. All who are not yet entirely hypnotized by the spell of the documentary hypothesis will feel that by this method all genuine scientific research is brought to an end. If the way in which this book originated had been so complicated, it certainly could never have been again reconstructed.

(2) Reasons for Dismemberment.

We must at this place confine ourselves to mentioning and discussing several typical reasons which are urged in favor of a distribution among different authors.

(a) Alleged Repetitions:

We find in the parts belonging to P a number of so-called repetitions. In Leviticus 1 through 7 we find a twofold discussion of the five kinds of sacrifices (1-5; Leviticus 6:1 ff); in Leviticus 20 punitive measures are enacted for deeds which had been described already in Leviticus 18; in Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:10; Leviticus 23:3; Leviticus 26:2 the Sabbath command is intensified; in Leviticus 19:5 ff; Leviticus 22:29 f, we find commands which had been touched upon already in Leviticus 7:15 ff; Leviticus 19:9 f we find almost verbally repeated in Leviticus 23:22; Leviticus 24:2 ff repeats ordinances concerning the golden candlestick from Exodus 27:20 ff, etc. The existence of these repetitions cannot be denied; but is the conclusion drawn from this fact correct? It certainly is possible that one and the same author could have handled the same materials at different places and from different viewpoints, as is the case in Leviticus 1 through 7 in regard to the sacrifices. Leviticus 18 and 20 (misdeeds and punishments) are even necessarily and mutually supplementary. Specially important laws can have been repeated, in order to emphasize and impress them all the more; or they are placed in peculiar relations or in a unique light (compare, e.g., Leviticus 24:1 ff, the command in reference to the golden candlestick in the pericope Leviticus 23 through 24; see below). Accordingly, as soon as we can furnish a reason for the repetition, it becomes unobjectionable; and often, when this is not the case, the objections are unremoved if we ascribe the repetitions to a new author, who made the repetition by way of an explanation (see Exodus, II., 2., (5)).

(b) Separation of Materials:

Other reasons will probably be found in uniting or separating materials that are related. That Leviticus 16 is connected with Leviticus 8 through 10, and these connect with Exodus 25 ff, is said to prove that this had been the original order in these sections. But why should materials that are clearly connected be without any reason torn asunder by the insertion of foreign data? Or has the interpolator perhaps had reasons of his own for doing this? Why are not these breaks ascribed to the original author? The sacrificial laws in Leviticus 1 through 7 are properly placed before Leviticus 8 through 10, because in these latter chapters the sacrifices are described as already being made (Leviticus 9:7, Leviticus 9:15, the sin offering; Leviticus 9:7, Leviticus 9:12, Leviticus 9:16, the burnt offering; Leviticus 9:17; Leviticus 10:12, the meal offering; Leviticus 9:18, the peace offering; Leviticus 9:3 f, all kinds). In the same way Leviticus 11 through 15, through Leviticus 15:31, are inwardly connected with Leviticus 16, since these chapters speak of the defiling of the dwelling-place of YHWH, from which the Day of Atonement delivers (Leviticus 16:16 f, 33). As a matter of course, the original writer as well as a later redactor could have at times also connected parts in a looser or more external manner. In this way, in Leviticus 7:22 ff, the command not to eat of the fats or of the blood has been joined to the ordinances with reference to the use of the peace offerings in Leviticus 7:19 ff. This again is the case when, in Leviticus 2, Leviticus 2:11-13 have been inserted in the list of the different kinds of meal offering; when after the general scheme of sin offerings, according to the hierarchical order and rank in Leviticus 4, a number of special cases are mentioned in Leviticus 5:1 ff; and when in Leviticus 5:7 ff commands are given to prevent too great poverty; or when in Leviticus 6:19 ff the priestly meal offerings are found connected with other ordinances with references to the meat offerings in general (Leviticus 6:14 ff); or when the share that belongs to the priest (Leviticus 7:8 ff) is found connected with his claim to the guilt offering (Leviticus 7:1 ff); or the touching of the meat offering by something unclean (Leviticus 7:19 ff) is found connected with the ordinances concerning the peace offerings; or when in Leviticus 11 the ordinances dealing with the unclean animals gradually pass over into ordinances concerning the touching of these animals, as is already indicated by the subscription Leviticus 11:4, Leviticus 11:6 f (compare with Leviticus 11:2). Still more would it be natural to unite different parts in other ways also. In this way the ordinances dealing with the character of the sacrifices in Leviticus 22:17-30 could, regarded by themselves, be placed also in Leviticus 1 through 7. But in Leviticus 22 they are also well placed. On the other hand, the character of Leviticus 1 through 7 would have become too complicated if they were inserted here. In such matters the author must have freedom of action.

(c) Change of Singular and Plural:

Further, the frequent change between the singular and the plural in the addresses found in the laws which are given to a body of persons is without further thought used by the critics as a proof of a diversity of authors in the section under consideration (compare Leviticus 10:12 ff; Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 19:11 ff, 15 ff, etc.). But how easily this change in numbers can be explained! In case the plural is used, the body of the people are regarded as having been distributed into individuals; and in the case of a more stringent application the plural can at once be converted into the singular, since the author is thinking now only of separate individuals. Naturally, too, the singular is used as soon as the author thinks again rather of the people as a whole. Sometimes the change is made suddenly within one and the same verse or run of thought; and this in itself ought to have banished the thought of a difference of authors in such cases. In the case of an interpolator or redactor, it is from the outset all the more probable that he would have paid more attention to the person used in the addresses than that this would have been done by the original writer, who was completely absorbed by the subject-matter. Besides, such a change in number is frequently found in other connections also; compare in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 22:20-25, Exodus 22:29 f; Exodus 23:9 ff; compare Deuteronomy 12:2 ff, 13 ff). In regard to these passages, also, the modern critics are accustomed to draw the same conclusion; and in these cases, too, this is hasty. In the same way the change in the laws from the 3rd to the 2nd person can best be explained as the work of the lawgiver himself, before whose mind the persons addressed are more vividly present and who, when speaking in the 2nd person, becomes personal (compare Leviticus 2:4 ff with Leviticus 2:1-3, and also Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 6:18, Leviticus 6:21, Leviticus 6:25 ff).

(d) Proofs of Religious Development:

A greater importance seemingly must be attributed to the reasons based on a difference in the terminology or on contradictions in the laws, as these appear to lead to a religio-historical development. But the following examples are intended to show how all important it is to be slow in the acceptance of the materials which the critics offer in this connection.

(3) Insufficiency of These Reasons.

(a) In Leviticus 5:1-7, in the section treating of the sin offering (4:1 through 5:13), we find the word 'āshām, which also signifies “guilt offering” (compare Leviticus 5:14 ff; Leviticus 7:1 ff). Accordingly, it is claimed, the author of Leviticus 5:1-7 was not yet acquainted with the difference between the two kinds of offerings, and that this part is older than that in Leviticus 4:1 ff; Leviticus 5:14 ff. However, in Leviticus 5:1 ff the word 'āshām is evidently used in the sense of “repentance,” and does not signify “sin offering” at all; at any rate, already in Leviticus 5:6 f we find the characteristic term ḥaṭṭā'th to designate the latter, and thus this section appears as entirely in harmony with the connection.

(b) Critics find a contradiction in Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 7:33, Leviticus 7:37, and in Leviticus 6:29; Leviticus 7:31, Leviticus 7:36, since in the first case the officiating priest and in the other case the entire college of priests is described as participating in the sacrifice. In reply it is to be said that the first set of passages treat of the individual concrete cases, while the second set speak of the general principle. In Leviticus 7:8 f, however, where the individual officiating priest is actually put in express contrast with all the sons of Aaron, the matter under consideration is a difference in the meal offerings, which, beginning with Leviticus 2, could be regarded as known. Why this difference is made in the use of this sacrifice is no longer intelligible to us, as we no longer retain these sacrifices, nor are we in possession of the oral instruction which possibly accompanied the written formulation of these laws; but this is a matter entirely independent of the question as to the author.

(c) According to Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 4:3, Leviticus 4:5, Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:20, Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 8:12; Leviticus 16:32; Leviticus 21:10, Leviticus 21:12, the high priest is the only one who is anointed; while, on the other hand, in Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:21; Exodus 30:30; Exodus 40:15; Leviticus 7:36; Leviticus 10:7, all the priests are anointed. But the text as it reads does not make it impossible that there was a double anointing. According to the first set of passages, Aaron is anointed in such a manner that the anointing oil is poured out upon his head (compare especially Exodus 29:7 and Leviticus 8:12). Then, too, he and all his sons are anointed in such a way that a mixture of the oil and of the blood is sprinkled upon them and on their garments (compare especially Exodus 29:21 and Leviticus 8:30). Were we here dealing with a difference in reference to theory and the ranks of the priesthood, as these discussions were current at the time of the exile (see III., below), then surely the victorious party would have seen to it that their views alone would have been reproduced in these laws, and the opposing views would have been suppressed. But now both anointings are found side by side, and even in one and the same chapter!

(d) The different punishments prescribed for carnal intercourse with a woman during her periods in Leviticus 15:24 and Leviticus 20:18 are easily explained by the fact that, in the first passage, the periods are spoken of which only set in during the act, and in the second passage, those which had already set in before.

(e) As far as the difference in terminology is concerned, it must be remembered that in their claims the critics either overlook that intentional differences may decide the preference for certain words or expressions; or else they ignore the fact that it is possible in almost every section of a writer's work to find some expressions which are always, or at least often, peculiar to him; or finally, they in an inexcusable way ignore the freedom of selection which a writer has between different synonyms or his choice in using these.

All in all, it must be said that however much we acknowledge the keenness and the industry of the modern critics in clearing up many difficulties, and the fact that they bring up many questions that demand answers, it nevertheless is the fact that they take the matter of solving these problems entirely too easily, by arbitrarily claiming different authors, without taking note of the fact that by doing this the real difficulty is not removed, but is only transferred to another place. What could possibly be accepted as satisfactory in one single instance, namely that through the thoughtlessness of an editor discrepancies in form or matter had found their way into the text, is at once claimed to be the regular mode of solving these difficulties - a procedure that is itself thoughtlessness. On the other hand, the critics overlook the fact that it makes little difference for the religious and the ethical value of these commands, whether logical, systematic, linguistic or aesthetic correctness in all their parts has been attained or not; to which must yet be added, that a failure in the one particular may at the same time be an advantage in the other. In this respect we need recall only the anacoluths of the apostle Paul.

2. Structure of the Biblical Text:

(1) Structure in General.

The most effective antidote against the craze to split up the text in the manner described above will be found in the exposition of all those features which unite this text into one inseparable whole. What we have tried to demonstrate in the arts Genesis; Exodus, II.; Day Of Atonement (compare also Ezekiel, I, 2, (2)) can be repeated at this point. The Book of Leviticus shows all the marks of being a well-constructed and organic literary product, which in its fundamental characteristics has already been outlined under I above. And as this was done in the several articles just cited, we can here add further, as a corroborative factor in favor of the acceptance of an inner literary unity of the book, that the division of the book into its logical parts, even down to minute details, is here, as is so often the case elsewhere, not only virtually self-evident in many particulars, but that the use made of typical numbers in many passages in this adjustment of the parts almost forces itself upon our recognition. In other places the same is at least suggested, and can be traced throughout the book without the least violence to the text. The system need not be forced upon the materials. We often find sections but loosely connected with the preceding parts (compare under 1 above) and not united in a strictly logical manner, but which are nevertheless related in thought and association of ideas. In harmony with the division of the Book of Genesis we find at once that the general contents, as mentioned under I above, easily fall into 10 pericopes, and it is seen that these consist of 2 sets each of 5 pericopes together with an appendix.

(a) Ten Pericopes in Two Parts:

Part I, the separation from God and the removal of this separation:

(i) Leviticus 1 through 7;

(ii) Leviticus 8 through 10;

(iii) Leviticus 11 through 15;

(iv) Leviticus 16;

(v) Leviticus 17.

Part II, the normal conduct of the people of God:

(i) Leviticus 18 through 20;

(ii) Leviticus 21 through 22;

(iii) Leviticus 23 through 24;

(iv) Leviticus 25;

(v) Leviticus 26.

Appendix, Leviticus 27; compare for the number 10 the division of Exodus 1:8 through 7:7; 7:8 through 13:16; 13:17 through 18:27; also the Decalogue, Exodus 20:1 ff; 21:1 through 23:19; 32:1 through 35:1; and see Exodus, II., 2.; and in Leviticus probably Leviticus 18:6-18; Leviticus 19:9-18, and with considerable certainty 19:1-37 (see below).

(b) Correspondence and Connections:

I leave out of consideration in this case the question whether an intentional correspondence among the different parts be traced or not, even in their details. Thus, e.g.; when the 2nd pericope (Leviticus 8 through 10 and 21 f) treats particularly of the order of the priests, or when the 4th pericope of the 2nd set (Leviticus 25) states that the beginning of the Year of Jubilee fell on the 10th day of the 7th month, i.e. on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus 16, in the 4th pericope of the 1st set (compare Leviticus 25:9 with Leviticus 16:29); or when both sets close with two shorter pericopes, which evidently express high stages of development (Leviticus 16 and 17, respectively, Leviticus 25 and 26 treating of the Day of Atonement, of the use made of blood and the purposes of blood for the altar or the Jubilee Year, of the blessing and the curse).

And, as far as the order in other respects is concerned, it is throughout to be regarded as founded in the subject-matter itself that Leviticus 1 through 17 must precede Leviticus 18 through 26. First that which separates the people from God must be removed, and then only is a God-pleasing conduct possible. Just as easily, and in agreement with the context, it is possible that the consecration of the priests in Leviticus 8 through 10 presupposes the sacrificial tōrāh (Leviticus 1 through 7; compare under 1 above) and follows the latter, and is immediately introduced by the mention made of the installation sacrifices for which otherwise there are no reasons assigned in the concluding formula in Leviticus 7:37 (compare Leviticus 8:22-32). The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), which in Leviticus 16:16 f and Leviticus 16:33 is spoken of in connection with the purification of the sanctuary, is in turn introduced by Leviticus 11 through 15, or more particularly by the remark in Leviticus 15:31, where mention is made of the pollution of the dwelling-place of YHWH. And on the other hand, the ordinances dealing with the priests (Leviticus 8 through 10) in Leviticus 10:10, where the command is given to discriminate between what is holy and what is unholy and to teach Israel accordingly, already point to the contents of Leviticus 11 through 15. The sacrifices, with which the first part in Leviticus 1 through 7 begins, are taken up again by the conclusion in Leviticus 17, in the commandment concerning the blood for the altar. The second part, too, already at the beginning (Leviticus 18 through 20) in its religiously cultural and ethical ordinances, shows in the clearest possible manner what matters it proposes to discuss. In this way the systematic structure of the book is apparent in all particulars.

Close connections: comparison with Exodus: And, further, the different pericopes are also so closely Connected among themselves and with the corresponding pericopes in the books of Exodus and Numbers, that many have thought it necessary to regard them as a special body of laws. But the connection is so close and involves all the details so thoroughly, that all efforts to divide and distribute them after the examples described under 1 above must fail absolutely. We shall now give the proofs for the different pericopes in Lev, but in such a manner as to take into consideration also Ex 25 through 31; 35 ff, treating of the tabernacle and its utensils and the Aaronitic priesthood, which are most intimately connected with Leviticus. All details in this matter will be left out of consideration.

(i) Tabernacle and priesthood: That Leviticus 8 through 10 (the consecration of the priests, etc.), together with Exodus 25 ff, constitutes a single whole is accepted on all hands. But the tent of meeting and its utensils, and also the priesthood, both with and without any emphasis on the Aaronitic origin, are presupposed also in almost each one of the other pericopes of Leviticus; compare for Leviticus 1 through 7, e.g.,

for Leviticus 11 through 15 see

for Leviticus 16 see

for Leviticus 17 see

for Leviticus 18 through 20 see

for Leviticus 21 f see Leviticus 21:12 (sanctuary);

for Leviticus 23; 24 see

for Leviticus 26 see

for Leviticus 27 see

(ii) In the same way the sacrificial laws of Leviticus 1 through 7 are mentioned in the following pericopes as matters that are well known.

For Leviticus 8 through 10 see

In Leviticus 9:21; Leviticus 10:14 f (wave-breasts and heave-thigh) direct reference is made to Leviticus 7:30-36. In the same manner Leviticus 10:16 ff presupposes the ordinances dealing with the different ways of offering the sin offerings in Leviticus 4:3 ff, 13 ff; Leviticus 6:24-30;

for Leviticus 11 through 15 see

for Leviticus 16 see

for Leviticus 17 see

for Leviticus 18 through 20 see

  • Leviticus 19:6 ff, 21 f (here is therefore the 'āshām found in H, which is claimed to be of a later date);

for Leviticus 21 f see

for Leviticus 23; 24 see

for Leviticus 26 see

for Leviticus 27 compare Leviticus 27:15, Leviticus 27:19, Leviticus 27:27, Leviticus 27:31 with Leviticus 5:16; Leviticus 6:5.

(iii) Laws on clean and unclean:

The laws in reference to the clean and the unclean in Leviticus 11 through 15 are also interwoven with the whole book.

For Leviticus 1 through 7 see

for Leviticus 8 through 10 see

for Leviticus 16 see

for Leviticus 17 see

for Leviticus 18 through 20 compare Leviticus 20:25 with Leviticus 11:44, and in general with Leviticus 11;

for Leviticus 21 f see

for Leviticus 27 see

(iv) The laws in reference to the Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16 are prepared for by those found in Leviticus 11 through 15, namely, in Leviticus 14:4 ff, 49 ff (the ceremony with the two birds in connection with the purification from leprosy), and in Leviticus 15:31 (compare Leviticus 16:16, Leviticus 16:19; see above). For Leviticus 23; 24 compare Leviticus 23:26 ff with Leviticus 16:29 if, and for Leviticus 25:9 with Leviticus 16:29 see above; compare also Exodus 30:10.

(v) Leviticus 17 is re-echoed in Leviticus 1 through 7 (Leviticus 7:26 f) and in Leviticus 18 through 20 (Leviticus 19:26).

(vi) Finally Leviticus 25 (Year of Rest and Year of Jubilee) is presupposed in Leviticus 26:34 f, 43 and in Leviticus 27:17 ff, 23 f.

The above, however, by no means exhausts this list of references and similar thoughts, and we have here given only some leading illustrations. What literary tricks must be resorted to when, over against this overwhelming mass of evidence, critics yet insist that the different parts of the book were originally independent writings, especially, too, when the entire tabernacle and utensils of the Aaronitic priesthood, the Day of Atonement, the Year of Jubilee, the whole sacrificial scheme and the laws dealing with the great festivals, the restriction of the slaying of the sacrificial animals to the central sanctuary, are regarded as the products of imagination alone, according to the Wellhausen hypothesis (compare III, below, and see also Exodus, III., 5.; Day Of Atonement; Ezekiel, II, 2). And how little is gained in addition when, as is sometimes done, in a most arbitrary manner, the statements found in Leviticus 1 through 3 concerning the tabernacle of revelation (“tent of meeting”) and concerning Aaron's sons, or concerning Aaron and his sons together, are regarded as later additions. In Leviticus and Exodus 25 ff; 35 ff, everything is so entirely of one and the same character and has so clearly emanated from one and the same spirit, that it is impossible to separate from this product any constituent parts and to unite these into groups that were originally independent, then to split up these still further and to trace the parts to their sources, and even to construct a scheme of religious and historical development on this reconstruction of the sources.

(2) Structure of the Individual Pericopes.

As the windows and the column capitals of a medieval cathedral are arranged according to different schemes and this divergence is regarded as an enrichment of the structure, thus, too, we find it to be in the structure of the various pericopes of the Book of Leviticus. These latter, too, possess a certain symphony of different tones, but all are rhythmically arranged, and only when united do they produce the entire symphony.

(a) The Laws Concerning the Sacrifices (Leviticus 1 through 7):

In the first place, the five different kinds of sacrifices in Israel are mentioned in succession twice, in Leviticus 1:1 through Leviticus 7:21:

Part I, Leviticus 1 through 5, namely

(i) Leviticus 1, burnt offerings;

(ii) Leviticus 2, meal offering;

(iii) Leviticus 3, peace offerings;

(iv) Leviticus 4:1 through 5:13, sin offering;

(v) Leviticus 5:14-26, guilt offering;

Part II, Leviticus 6:1 through 7:21, namely

(i) Leviticus 6:8-13, burnt offerings;

(ii) Leviticus 6:14-23, meal offering;

(iii) Leviticus 6:24-30, sin offering;

(iv) Leviticus 7:1-7 with appendix, Leviticus 7:8-10, dealing with that part of the sacrifices which belongs to the priest (see under 1., above), guilt offering;

(v) Leviticus 7:11-21, peace offerings. With this is found connected in Leviticus 7:22-27 the prohibition of the use of the fat or the blood, and in Leviticus 7:28-36, the laws concerning the wave-breast and the heave-thigh. We have accordingly at once twelve of these laws (compare on Ex 25:1 through 30:10 in article on Exodus, II., 2., (5) and on Ezekiel, I, 2, 5)). But even apart from this we have no right to ascribe Leviticus 1 through 5 and 6:1 through 7:21, on the ground that they are duplicates, to different authors.

That there is a difference between these two accounts is proved, not only by the fact that the first set of laws from Leviticus 1 through 5 is addressed to all the Israelites (compare Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 4:2), and the second set Leviticus 6:8; Leviticus 7:21 to Aaron and his sons (compare Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:25); but the second set has also in content a number of altogether different viewpoints as compared with the first set, so that the same author found himself induced or compelled to write both sets. On the other hand, the fact that both have the same author is evident from the very close connection between the two sections. In addition to the fact that both make mention of all five kinds of sacrifices, we can yet compare Leviticus 3:5 with Leviticus 6:22 (fat pieces of the peace offering over the burnt sacrifices upon the pieces of wood); and, further, the express reference of Leviticus 6:17 to Leviticus 4, while Leviticus 6:30 presupposes the distinct separation of the sin offering, the blood of which is brought into the tent of meeting, from the other sacrifices, as these are given in Leviticus 4:3 ff, 13 ff over against Leviticus 4:22 ff, 27 ff. Leviticus 4, with its reference to the peace offerings (Leviticus 4:10, Leviticus 4:26, Leviticus 4:31, Leviticus 4:35), is again most closely connected with Leviticus 3. We must accordingly insist that the whole account is most intimately interwoven. Over against this, the omission within the first set, Leviticus 1 through 5, in Leviticus 5:14-16, of the ritual for the peace offering, is sufficiently explained only by the fact that this ritual was to be used in the second set (6:8 through 7:21), and here for the first time only in Leviticus 7:1-15, which fact again speaks for the same author for both sets and against the supposition that they were merely mechanically united by a redactor. The fact that the second set 6:8 through 7:21 has a different order from that of Leviticus 1 through 5, by uniting the sin offering immediately with the meal offering (Leviticus 6:24 ff with Leviticus 6:14-23), is probably on account of the similar ordinances in Leviticus 7:9 and Leviticus 7:19 (manner of eating the meal offering and the sin offering). On the other hand, the position of the peace offering at the close of the second set (Leviticus 7:11 ff) furnished the possibility of giving to the piece of the entire pericope embraced in Leviticus 7:22-27, Leviticus 7:28-36 a suitable conclusion; since Leviticus 7:22 ff (prohibition of the eating of the fat and the blood), connected with Leviticus 7:19 ff, contained in Leviticus 7:28 ff an ordinance that pertained to the peace offering (heave-breast and wave-thigh). At any rate, these last two pieces are to be regarded separately from the rest, since they are no longer addressed to the priests, as is 6:8 through 7:21, but to all Israel; compare Leviticus 7:23, Leviticus 7:29. On some other data less intimately connected with the matter, compare above under 1.

(b) Consecration of priests and related matters (Leviticus 8 through 10):

In this pericope, as in the following, down to Leviticus 17 inclusive, but especially from Leviticus 11 on, the principle of division on the basis of the number four predominates, in many cases in the details, too; so that this could scarcely be regarded as an accidental feature (compare also the history of Abraham in Genesis 12 through 26; further, in Exodus 35:4 through Exodus 40:38; and in Exodus, II., 2., (7); Leviticus 16, under Day Of Atonement; Deuteronomy 12 through 26, too, is probably to be divided on this principle, even to the minutest details (compare finally Leviticus 21 through 22:16; Leviticus 22:17-30; Leviticus 23 f and 26).

(i) Leviticus 8, treating of the first seven days of the consecration of the priests: The outline is found in Leviticus 8:2, namely Aaron, the sacred garments, the anointing oil, the bullock of the sin offering, two rams, unleavened bread (compare Leviticus 8:6, Leviticus 8:7 ff, 10 ff, 14 ff, 18 ff, 22 ff, 26 ff).

(ii) Leviticus 9 the first sacrifices of Aaron and his sons on the 8th day (Leviticus 9:2-4 contain the outline, after the manner of Leviticus 8:2; compare Leviticus 9:7 ff, 11 ff, the sin offering and the burnt offering of Aaron, with Leviticus 9:2; also Leviticus 9:15-18, treating of what the people brought for the sacrifices, with Leviticus 9:3 f; but it is to be noticed that the meal offering and the peace offering (Leviticus 9:17, Leviticus 9:18) are given in inverted order from that found in Leviticus 9:3 f). Here too we find the number seven, if we add the burnt offering for the morning (Leviticus 9:17).

(iii) Leviticus 10:1-7, the sin of Nadab and Abihu and their punishment by death;

(iv) Leviticus 10:8-20, ordinances concerning the priests, occasioned by 8:1 through 10:7 and provided with a new superscription in Leviticus 10:8, namely Leviticus 10:8, dealing with the prohibition of the use of wine and intoxicants; Leviticus 10:9 f, distinction between the holy and the unholy; Leviticus 10:12-15, the eating of the sacred oblations; Leviticus 10:16-20, the treatment of the goat for the sin offering.

(c) Laws Concerning the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11 through 15):

(i) Leviticus 11, treating of clean and unclean animals. The outline of the chief contents is found in Leviticus 11:46 with a free transposition of one number. There are accordingly four pieces, namely, Leviticus 11:2-8, quadrupeds; Leviticus 11:9-12, water animals; Leviticus 11:13-23, birds (with an appendix, treating of contact with the unclean, Leviticus 11:24-28, which give a summary of the animals mentioned (see under 1.); 11:29-45, the small animals upon the earth (again in four subdivisions, namely,

(ii) Leviticus 12:1-8 treats of women in confinement, also in four pieces (Leviticus 12:2-4, birth of a male child; Leviticus 12:5, birth of a female child; Leviticus 12:6 f, purification ceremony; Leviticus 12:8, ordinances in case of extreme poverty). These parts are not joined logically, but in a rather external manner.

(iii) The passage 13:1 through 14:53, containing the laws of leprosy, with the subscription in Leviticus 14:54 ff. (Because seven points are to be enumerated, Leviticus 14:55 (garments and houses), this is not as in its further exposition separated from the other laws and is placed in their midst.) The exposition contains four pieces, namely, 13:1-44, leprosy on human beings (with concluding Leviticus 13:45 f), with seven subdivisions, of which the first five longer ones are constructed along fairly parallel lines, and again can be divided into four sub-subdivisions, namely, Leviticus 13:1-8; Leviticus 1:9-17; 1:18-23; 1:24-28; 1:29-37; 1:38 f; 1:40-44. The significance of the number seven for the structure (see (2), (b), i, above) is akin to that found, e.g., in Exodus 24:18b through 31:18 (see Exodus, II., 2., (5)); Leviticus 8; 9 (see above); Leviticus 23; 25; and 27; and possibly Leviticus 26:3-13, 14-39 (see below); finally, the whole Book of Exodus is divided into seven parts (see Exodus, II., 1.). Leviticus 13:47-59, leprosy in connection with garments, with four subdivisions, namely Leviticus 13:47-50; Leviticus 13:51 f; Leviticus 13:53 f; Leviticus 13:55 ff. The last subdivision can again be readily separated into four sub-subdivisions, namely, Leviticus 13:55; Leviticus 13:56; Leviticus 13:57; Leviticus 13:58; 14:1-32, purifications (Leviticus 14:2 being a special superscription), with 4 subdivisions, namely,

  • (i) Leviticus 14:2-3, the leper before the priest;
  • (ii) Leviticus 14:3-9, the purification ceremonies on the first seven days, again divided into 4 sub-subdivisions: Leviticus 14:3 f; Leviticus 14:5-7; Leviticus 14:8; Leviticus 14:9;
  • (iii) Leviticus 14:10-20, the ceremony of the eighth day (4 sacrifices, namely Leviticus 14:12-18, guilt offering; Leviticus 14:19, sin offering; Leviticus 14:19, burnt offering; Leviticus 14:20, meal offering; in the 4 sacrifices (5:12 through 6:7) there are again 4 different actions: Leviticus 14:14; Leviticus 14:15 f; Leviticus 14:17; Leviticus 14:18;
  • (iv) Leviticus 14:21-32 (in cases of poverty) 14:33-53, leprosy in houses, with four subdivisions: Leviticus 14:33-35; Leviticus 14:36-38; Leviticus 14:39-42; Leviticus 14:43-53.

(iv) Leviticus 15, sickness or natural issues, with 4 subdivisions, namely, Leviticus 15:1-15, checked or running issues together with their purification (Leviticus 15:3-12 contain 12 laws: Leviticus 15:3; Leviticus 15:4; Leviticus 15:4; Leviticus 15:5; Leviticus 15:6; Leviticus 15:7; Leviticus 15:8; Leviticus 15:9; Leviticus 15:10; Leviticus 15:11; Leviticus 15:12); Leviticus 15:16-18, issue of seed; Leviticus 15:19-24, periods; Leviticus 15:25-30, other flows of blood and their purification. Leviticus 15:1-15 and Leviticus 15:16-18 refer to men, and Leviticus 15:19-24 and Leviticus 15:25-30 to women; and in addition to these implied suggestions, as Leviticus 15:1-15 and Leviticus 15:25-30 to dealing with abnormal issues and their purification ceremonies, Leviticus 15:16-18 and Leviticus 15:19-24 deal with normal issues.

(d) The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16):

See IV., 1., (2), 2., and under Day Of Atonement.

(e) Uses and significance of the blood of sacrifices (Leviticus 17):

(i) Leviticus 17:3-7, only one place for killing the Sacrifices and the rejection of all foreign cultures;

(ii) Leviticus 17:8, Leviticus 17:9, only one place for sacrificing;

(iii) Leviticus 17:10-14, prohibitive of eating the blood;

(iv) Leviticus 17:15, pertaining to carcasses of animals found dead or which have been torn by wild beasts.

Here the form and the contents of the section have been brought into perfect harmony by the author. Leviticus 17:3 ff, 8 ff, 10 ff, 13 ff begin with same words, and each contains a similar formula in reference to the punishment, while logically Leviticus 17:10 ff and 13 ff are evidently only subdivisions of the third part in Leviticus 17:10-14, which treats of the prohibition of eating blood. In the fourth division, again, while in substance connected with the rest, there is lacking the formal agreement with the first three divisions.

(f) (g) (Leviticus 18 through 20; 21):

These naturally fall each into 2 parts. Leviticus 18 through 20 contain

(i) Leviticus 18 f, religious and ethical laws;

(ii) Leviticus 20, laws dealing with punishments.

(f i) Religious and ethical laws (Leviticus 18 f):

(a) Leviticus 18:

Ordinances with reference to marriage and chastity. Leviticus 18:1-5, introductory; Leviticus 18:6-18, prohibition of marriage between kindred of blood; Leviticus 18:19-23, prohibition of other sexual sins; Leviticus 18:24-30, warnings.

The subdivision can perhaps be divided into 10 subordinate parts, if it is permitted to combine the different degrees of relationship mentioned in Leviticus 18:12-14 (namely, Leviticus 18:7, Leviticus 18:8, Leviticus 18:9, Leviticus 18:10, Leviticus 18:11, Leviticus 18:12-14, Leviticus 18:15, Leviticus 18:16, Leviticus 18:17, Leviticus 18:18). Since it, of itself, manifestly consists of 5 ordinances (Leviticus 18:19, Leviticus 18:20, Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 18:23), this whole section, if we are permitted to divide it into 5 commandments (Leviticus 18:2, Leviticus 18:3, Leviticus 18:3, Leviticus 18:4, Leviticus 18:5) and also into 5 (Leviticus 18:24 f, 26-28, 29, 30a, 30b), would contain 5 X 5 words; but this is uncertain.

(b) Leviticus 19:

Various commands of the deepest significance. In order to discover the divisions of this chapter we must note the characteristic formula, “I am YHWH, your Gods” or a similar expression, which often appears at the beginning and at the end of certain divisions, e.g. in series (1) (9) and (10), but which in the middle series appears in each case only once, and which in all the series is found also at the conclusion.

In this way we can compute 10 tetralogues. Thus after the superscription in Leviticus 19:2 containing a summary, we have

(i) Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:1 (Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:4, Leviticus 19:4);

(ii) Leviticus 19:5-10 (Leviticus 19:5 f, 7 f, 9, 10);

(iii) Leviticus 19:11 f (Leviticus 19:11(?), 11b(?), 12);

(iv) Leviticus 19:13 f (Leviticus 19:13, Leviticus 19:14,);

(v) Leviticus 19:15 f (15a, 15b, 16a, 16b);

(vi) Leviticus 19:17 f (Leviticus 19:17, Leviticus 19:18);

(vii) Leviticus 19:19-25 (Leviticus 19:19, Leviticus 19:20-22, Leviticus 19:23-25);

(viii) Leviticus 19:26-28 (Leviticus 19:26, Leviticus 19:27, Leviticus 19:28),

(ix) Leviticus 19:29-32 (Leviticus 19:29, Leviticus 19:30, Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 19:32);

(x) Leviticus 19:33-36 (Leviticus 19:33, Leviticus 19:14, Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36); Leviticus 19:37 constitutes the conclusion of the whole. (Note that the number ten here is certain in the conviction of the present writer; but he is not quite so sure of the number of subdivisions within the main divisions; we may have to do here with pentalogues and not with tetralogues. If this is the case, then the agreements with Leviticus 18 would under certain circumstances be even greater.)

Possibly groupings of two can yet form a closer union (compare on Exodus 1 through 18; 21 through 23, Exodus, II., 2., (1-4)). At any rate (iii) and (iv) can be summarized under the general heading of defrauding one's neighbors; (v) and (vi) under that of observation of the laws; (vii) and (viii) under that of heathen abuses; while (ix) and (x) perhaps intentionally mingle together the religious and cultural and ethical elements, in order thereby already to express that all these things are most intimately connected (but compare also Leviticus 19:12, Leviticus 19:14, Leviticus 19:17, in the middle sections). In Leviticus 19:5 ff, 20 ff, 23 ff, the author develops his subject somewhat more fully.

(f ii) Laws dealing with punishments (Leviticus 20):

The regulations in reference to punishments stand in such close relation to the contents of Leviticus 18 and to parts of Leviticus 19, that it is absolutely incomprehensible how the Critics can assign these three chapters to different authors. Even if certain regulations of Leviticus 18 are not found here in Leviticus 20:7, Leviticus 20:10, Leviticus 20:17, Leviticus 20:18, and even if another order has been followed, this variation, which doubtless also hangs together with a new grouping of the materials, is rather an advantage than a disadvantage for the whole. It is impossible to conceive that a redactor would have altered anything in two entirely parallel and similar texts, or would himself have written a parallel text differing from the other. Leviticus 20 can probably be divided into 4 parts, namely,

  • (i) Leviticus 20:1-8, punishments for idolatry and witchcraft with a concluding formula, Leviticus 20:7 f;
  • (ii) Leviticus 20:9-18, punishment of death for ten crimes, all of which, with the exception of the first, are of a sexual nature (Leviticus 20:9-18). It is a question whether the first in the second group (Leviticus 20:14), i.e. the sixth in the whole series, was intended to be made prominent by the peculiar character of the punishment (burning to death);
  • (iii) Leviticus 20:19-21, other sexual sins, with lighter punishments;
  • (iv) Leviticus 20:22-27, with 4 subdivisions (warning, Leviticus 20:22 f; promise, Leviticus 20:24; emphatic repetitions of two commands already given, Leviticus 20:25 ff; (compare with Leviticus 11:44 ff, and in general with Leviticus 11); and Leviticus 20:27 with Leviticus 19:26, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6). Perfectly certain in this chapter is the fact that the different kinds of punishments are likewise decisive for their order. It is doubtless not to be regarded as accidental that both at the beginning and at the end death by stoning is mentioned.

(g) (Leviticus 21:1 through 22:33):

(i) Laws concerning the quality of the priests (Leviticus 21:1-22, Leviticus 21:16); and

(ii) concerning sacred oblations (Leviticus 22:17-30) with the subscription Leviticus 22:31-33.

(g i) Qualities of Priests:

Leviticus 21:1 through Leviticus 22:16 in four sections (Leviticus 21:1 ff, 10 ff, 16 ff; Leviticus 22:1 ff; note also in Leviticus 21:18-20 the 12 blemishes; in Leviticus 22:4-8 the 7 cases of uncleanness).

(g ii) Sacred oblations:

Leviticus 22:17-30 in four sections (Leviticus 22:18-20, Leviticus 22:21-25, Leviticus 22:26-28, Leviticus 22:29 f).

(h) Consecration of seasons, etc. (Leviticus 23; 24):

(i) Leviticus 23, laws for the feasts (7 sections, namely, Leviticus 23:3, Leviticus 23:4 f, 6-14, 15-22, 23-25, 26-32, 33-36, with the appendix that in every particular suits the connection, in Leviticus 23:39 ff, added to the feast of the tabernacles);

(ii) Leviticus 24:1-4, treating of the sacred candlestick, which represents the moral conduct of the Israelites, and for this reason suits admirably in the connection; as this is true also of

(iii) Leviticus 24:5-9, treating of the showbread, which represents the results of the labor of Israel;

(iv) Leviticus 24:10-23, containing the report of the punishment of a blasphemer of God and of one who cursed.

Probably the example was made of a person who took the name of God in vain at the time which this chapter describes. But possibly there is a still closer connection to be found with that which precedes. The showbread and the candlestick were found in the holy place, which with its utensils pictured the relation of Israel's character to their God; while the utensils in the Holy of Holies indicated God's relation to His people (compare Hengstenberg, Beitrage, III, 644 ff). But since the holy place, in addition to the showbread and the candlestick, contained only the incense altar, which symbolized the prayers of Israel, and as the blasphemer represents the exact opposite of prayer, it is probable that in Leviticus 24:10 ff prayer is indicated by its counterpart. This section consists of 4 parts, namely, Leviticus 24:10-12; Leviticus 24:13-14; Leviticus 24:15-22 (giving a series of punishments for certain wrongdoings which are more or less closely connected with that found in the text); Leviticus 24:23.

(i) Sabbatic and Jubilee Years (Leviticus 25):

Sabbatic and Jubilee years in 7 sections, namely, Leviticus 25:1-7; Leviticus 25:8-12; 25:13-28; Leviticus 25:29-34; Leviticus 25:35-38; Leviticus 25:39-46; Leviticus 25:47-55.

(j) Conclusion:

Curse and blessing (Leviticus 26): The grand concluding chapter, offering a curse and a blessing and containing all the prophetic utterances of later times in a nutshell, namely,

(i) Leviticus 26:1-2, repetition of four important demands (Leviticus 26:1, Leviticus 26:1, Leviticus 26:2, Leviticus 26:2);

(ii) Leviticus 26:3-13, the blessing, possibly to be divided into 7 stages, one more spiritual than the other;

(iii) Leviticus 26:4-39, the curse, possibly to be divided into seven stages, one more intense than the other (compare also the play on words 7 times repeated, in reference to shabbāth, possibly found in Leviticus 26:34 f, and certainly found in Leviticus 26:18, Leviticus 26:21, Leviticus 26:24, Leviticus 26:27 f);

(iv) Leviticus 26:40-45, the mercy finally shown by YHWH for His covenant's sake.

(k) Appendix:

Finally, the appendix in Leviticus 27, dealing with vows and tithes, in 7 parts, namely, Leviticus 27:1-8; Leviticus 27:9-13; Leviticus 27:14-15; Leviticus 27:16-21; Leviticus 27:26 f; Leviticus 27:28-29; Leviticus 27:30-33.

III. Origin.

1. Against the Wellhausen Hypothesis:

As in the article Day Of Atonement, I., 2., (2), we took a stand against the modern attempts at splitting up the text, and in III, 1 against theory of the late origin of the whole pericope, we must, after trying under II to prove the unity of the Book of Leviticus, yet examine the modern claim that the book as a whole is the product of later times. Since the entire book is ascribed to the Priestly Code (see II., 1. above), the answer to the question as to the time when it was written will depend on the attitude which we take toward the Wellhausen hypothesis, which insists that the Priestly Code was not published until the time of the exile in 444 BC (Neh 8 through 10).

(1) The Argument from Silence.

One of the most important proofs for this claim is the “argument from silence” (argumentum e silentio). How careful one must be in making use of this argument can be seen from the fact that, e.g., the high priest with his full title is mentioned but a single time in the entire Book of Leviticus, namely in Leviticus 21:10; and that the Levites are not mentioned save once (Leviticus 25:32 ff), and then incidentally. As is well known, it is the adherents of the Wellhausen hypothesis themselves who now claim that the bulk of the entire literature of the Old Testament originated in the post-exilic period and long after the year 444 BC. Leaving out of consideration for the present the Books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, all of which describe the history of Israel from the standpoint of the Priestly Code (P), we note that this later literature is not any richer in its references to P than is the older literature; and that in those cases where such references are found in this literature assigned to a late period, it is just as difficult to decide whether these passages refer merely to a custom or to a codified set of laws.

(2) Attitude of Prophets Toward Sacrificial System.

A further proof against the pre-exilic origin of the priestly legislation is found in what is claimed to be the hostile attitude of the prophets to the sacrificial system (compare Amos 5:21 ff; Amos 4:4 f; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6 ff; Isaiah 1:11 ff; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:21 ff; Psalm 40:6; Psalm 50:8, Psalm 50:9; Psalm 51:16 f). But this cannot possibly be an absolute antithesis; for in this case, it would be directed also against the Books of the Covenant and, in part, too, against Deuteronomy, which books in Exodus 20:24; Exodus 22:19; Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:25; Deuteronomy 12:5 f, 11, 13, 17, 26; Deuteronomy 15:19-23; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:5 f; Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 18:1, Deuteronomy 18:3 also give directions for sacrifices, and which, at least in part, are yet regarded as older writings. Further, these passages under discussion are also, in part, assigned to a later and even a very late period (compare even such cases as Psalm 40:6; Psalm 50:8 f; Psalm 51:16 f; Micah 6:6 ff, and in addition also Malachi 1:10), i.e. they are assigned to a time in which, according to the views of the critics, the priestly laws are said to have had their origin or were already regarded as authoritative. As a rule, the prophets make sacrifices, Sabbaths, sacred places and persons a part of their pictures of the future; cf, as far as sacrifices are concerned, e.g. Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 31:14; Jeremiah 33:14 ff. Finally, Leviticus 26:31 shows how, under certain circumstances, even P can declare sacrifices to be useless.

(3) The People's Disobedience.

Further, the transgressions of the Levitical laws in the course of Israel's history cannot be regarded as a proof of the non-existence of the priestly legislation in pre-exilic times. This is clear from an analogous case. Idolatry was forbidden by the Books of the Covenant (Exodus 20 through 24; 34), which are recognized as ancient documents; but according to 2 Ki 22 the pious king Josiah down to the year 622 BC takes no offense at idolatry. Even after the reformation, which had been inaugurated in consequence of the finding of the Book of the Law in the temple during the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22 f), idolatry was again practiced in Israel, as is proved by Ezekiel 8 and Jeremiah 44, notwithstanding that the Books of the Covenant and Deuteronomy already were extant at that time, even according to the views of the critics.

But let us pass on to P itself, and not forget that the directions given for the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25), according to Jewish tradition, were never actually observed. According to the reasoning of the critics, this law could not be in existence even in the present day. According to all reports the transgressions of the Divine ordinances began even as early as the Mosaic period; compare Exodus 32 (J, E, golden calf); Amos 5:25; Ezekiel 20; Deuteronomy 12:8 and also Leviticus 17:7 (sacrifice to the Satyrs in Priestly Code). This condition of affairs can readily be understood because the religion of YHWH does not claim to be an emanation from the spirit of the people, but the result of a revelation from on high. In the light of these facts can we be surprised, that in the times of the Judges, when a great prophetic leader was so often not to be found in Israel, the apostasy was so great and so widespread? But all of these cases of disobedience, that have been demonstrated as actual facts in Israel's history, are not able to eliminate the fact that there are many data to prove the existence of a central sanctuary already in the earliest history of the people, which fact presupposes as a matter of course that there were also laws for the cults in existence (see Exodus, III., 5.). We must further not forget how the sacrifices of the sons of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:11 ff), notwithstanding all their arbitrary conduct, presupposes such passages as Leviticus 7:30-32; Leviticus 10:15; Exodus 29:31 f; Leviticus 8:31; Numbers 6:19 f; Leviticus 7:23-32; or that the high priest, as described in Priestly Code, is already before the year 444 BC as well-known a character as he is after the exile (compare Ezekiel, II, 2); or that the question of Haggai 2:11 ff takes into consideration a code of cult- laws, and that the answer is given on the basis of Leviticus 6:27; Numbers 19:22.

(4) Indiscriminate Sacrificing.

To this must be added that the transgressions, to which the critics appeal in proof of their claims, and which they abuse for their own purposes, must in part be interpreted differently from what they are. In the case of sacrificing indiscriminately at any place whatever, and by any person whatever, we have in many cases to deal with extraordinary instances of theophanies (compare Judges 2:1 ff; Judges 6:11 ff; Judges 13:1 ff), as these had been foreseen in Exodus 20:24. Even the Book of Deuteronomy does not insist throughout (compare Deuteronomy 16:21) that the sacrifices, must be made at one and the same place (compare also PC: Leviticus 24:31; Joshua 22). After the rejection of Shiloh, at which the central sanctuary had been deposited, as recorded in 1 Samuel 4, the cultural ordinances of Priestly Code, as we learn from Jeremiah 7:11 ff; Jeremiah 26:6; Psalm 78:59 ff, became more or less a dead letter. Even the Books of Chronicles, which throughout record history from the standpoint of the Priestly Code, at this period and down to the dedication of the temple take no offense at the cultural acts of a Solomon in contrast with their attitude toward the conduct of Uzziah (see 2 Chronicles 1:6; 2 Chronicles 6:1-4; 2 Chronicles 7:1-7, as compared with 2 Chronicles 26:16 ff). In the same way the pious people in the Northern Kingdom, after it had, by Divine consent, been separated from the Southern, could not do otherwise than erect altars for themselves, since they could not participate in the worship of the calves in Bethel and Dan. Further, modern criticism overlooks the fact that what is regular and normal is much less liable to be reported in historical narrative than that which is irregular and abnormal.

(5) Deuteronomy and Priestly Code.

It is not possible at this place to enter into further details; we accordingly refer only to Exodus, III. and IV.; Day Of Atonement, and especially Ezekiel, II, 2, where the proof has been furnished that this prophet belongs to a later period than Priestly Code as far as Ezekiel 40 through 48 (containing his picture of the future) in general is concerned, and as far as Ezekiel 44:4 ff (where it is claimed that the prophet first introduces the distinction between priests and Levites) in particular is concerned. All the important problems that are connected with this matter, especially the difficulties which result from the Wellhausen hypothesis, when the questions as to the purpose, the form, the success and the origin of the priestly legislation come under consideration, are discussed in my book, Are the Critics Right? The result of this investigation is all the more noteworthy, as I was myself formerly an adherent of the Wellhausen school, but was forced to the conclusion that this hypothesis is untenable.

We have here yet to refer to the one fact that the relation of Deuteronomy (D) and the Priestly Code (P), as far as Leviticus in particular is concerned, justifies the scheme of P followed by D as the historical order, while Wellhausen makes D older than P. Deuteronomy 10:8 f; Deuteronomy 33:8 ff presuppose more detailed ordinances in reference to the priests such as those which have been given in P. The book of Deuteronomy further takes into account different kinds of sacrifices (compare Deuteronomy 12:5 f, 11, 13, 17, 26; Deuteronomy 15:19-23; Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 18:1, Deuteronomy 18:3, such as are described in Leviticus 1 ff). The law in Dt 14 (ordinances with reference to what is clean) agrees almost word for word with Leviticus 11, and is in such perfect harmony with the linguistic peculiarities of Priestly Code, that Leviticus 11 must be regarded as the original, and not vice versa. Deuteronomy 24:8 f refers directly to the injunctions concerning leprosy, as we find these in Leviticus 13 f, and the Deuteronomic passage is doubtless modeled after that of Lev. Deuteronomy 12:15, Deuteronomy 12:22; Deuteronomy 15:22 cannot be understood at all, except in the light of Leviticus 17:13. Deuteronomy 26:14 ff again expressly takes into account ideas that have been taken from Leviticus 22:3 ff. As far as the laws dealing with the great feasts in Dt 16 are concerned, it is impossible to understand Deuteronomy 16:9 without Leviticus 23:15 ff, 10 f; and the designation “feast of tabernacles” in Deuteronomy 16:13 ff cannot even be understood without a reference to such a law as we find in Leviticus 23:39 ff. The other passages to be discussed on this subject lead us to the following results.

2. Connection with Mosaic Period:

Even if the Book of Deuteronomy were the product of the 7th century BC, the facts that have been stated above would nevertheless disprove the claim of the Wellhausen hypothesis as to an exilic or post-exilic date for the Priestly Code. But if Deuteronomy, even in its essential and fundamental parts, merely, is Mosaic (compare Are the Critics Right? 1-55), then the Priestly Code which is still older than Dt must also belong to the Mosaic period.

(1) Priestly Code and Desert Conditions.

This conclusion is in this point confirmed still further by a series of facts. As Deuteronomy permits the firstborn to be ransomed (Deuteronomy 14:22 ff), but the Priestly Code demands their consecration in natura (Leviticus 27:26 f; compare Numbers 18:15 ff), the latter ordinances could be preferred and enforced only during the wandering in the desert, where the whole nation was in the neighborhood of the sanctuary. The fact that the ordinances dealing with the domestic celebration of the Passover in the private houses on the 14th of Nisan and the holy convocation on the 15th of Nisan at the sanctuary could be carried out only during the wanderings in the desert (compare Exodus 12:3 ff, 6; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Leviticus 27:6 ff; Numbers 28:17 ff), and that this was changed in Deuteronomy 16:5 f to correspond to changed conditions, can be seen by reference to Exodus, III., 3. Still more important is a third command in Leviticus 17 in comparison with Deuteronomy 12. The commandment that every animal that is to be slain is to be brought to the central sanctuary can have a purpose only for the Mosaic period, and could not even have been invented at a later period. Because of the entrance of Israel into Canaan, the Book of Deuteronomy changes this ordinance in such a way that from this time on the killing of the animals is permitted at any place (Deuteronomy 12:13 ff, 20 ff). The different commands in reference to the carcasses of animals that have died and of those torn to pieces are all dependent on Leviticus 17. In Deuteronomy 14:21, it was possible to forbid the use of such animals absolutely for Israel, because from now on, and in contrast to Leviticus 17, the killing of sacrificial animals was permitted at any place (Leviticus 17:13 ff). In Exodus 22:30 all use of such meat could be forbidden, because Leviticus 17, with its command to bring all blood to the sanctuary, had not yet been given. Leviticus, now, on the other hand, forbids this use only to the priests (Leviticus 22:8), and sees in this use in the case of the other Israelites only a transitory defilement (compare Leviticus 17:15; Leviticus 11:40); and in Leviticus 7:24 forbids only the use of the fat, but not of the meat of these animals; for now, according to Leviticus 17:1 ff, all the killing is a sacrifice which only those who are clean were permitted to eat and which could not be secured at all times (compare Hoffmann, op. cit., 23 f).

Our exposition of Leviticus 17:1 ff is, however, in another respect also of the greatest significance, for in Leviticus 17:4-6, Leviticus 17:8 f the tent of meeting is presupposed as existing; in Leviticus 17:5, Leviticus 17:8 also different kinds of sacrifices, and in Leviticus 17:6 the priesthood; so that at once further ordinances concerning the tent of meeting, the sacrificial code, the priesthood, such as we find in Exodus 25 ff; 35 ff; Leviticus 1 through 7; Exodus 29; Leviticus 8 through 10:21 ff, were possible and necessary, and these very laws must probably originate in and date from the Mosaic period. This same conclusion is sustained by the following considerations. For what other source or time could be in harmony with such statements found very often in other parts of Leviticus also, as “into the camp” in Leviticus 4:11 ff; Leviticus 6:11; Leviticus 13:46; Leviticus 14:3, Leviticus 14:8 (unconscious contrast to later times); Leviticus 14:33 ff, 40, 41, 45, 53; Leviticus 16:26-28; Leviticus 24:10-23; or “into the desert,” in Leviticus 16:10, Leviticus 16:21 f. In Leviticus 6:15, Leviticus 6:18; Leviticus 6:6 (compare also Leviticus 27:2 ff), the words “according to thy estimation” are addressed personally to Moses. In Leviticus 6:20 a calculation is based on the day on which Aaron was consecrated to the priesthood, while Leviticus 6:22 is the first that has general coloring. Such hints, which, as it were, have only been accidentally scattered in the body of the laws, and which point to the situation of the lawgiver and of his times, are of especial value for the argument in favor of the Mosaic origin of these laws. Further, we everywhere find that Aaron and his sons are as yet the only incumbents of the priestly office (compare Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:7, Leviticus 1:8, Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 3:13; Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:14, Leviticus 6:16, etc.). All the laws claim to have been given through Moses or Aaron or through both at Mount Sinai (see I. above). And who, in later times, if it was the purpose to magnify the priesthood of Aaron, would have thought of inventing the fact that on the Day of Atonement and on other occasions it was necessary for Aaron to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering for himself (Leviticus 16; 8 through 10; Leviticus 6:19 ff), or that Moses in his view of a certain cultural act had been mistaken (compare Leviticus 10:16 ff)? The law concerning the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25) presupposes that each tribe is confined in its own district and is not intermingled with the other tribes, a presupposition which was no longer possible after the occupation of Canaan, and is accordingly thinkable only in the Mosaic times. And now let us remember that this fact, when we recall (see II., above) that the unity of the book was proved, is a ground for claiming that the entire book dates from the Mosaic period. As far as Leviticus at least is concerned, there is nothing found in the book that calls for a later date. Leviticus 18:24 ff can be regarded as post-Mosaic only if we translate these verses thoughtlessly, as though the inhabitants of the country were here described as being expelled earlier. On the other hand, in Leviticus 18:24, just as is the case with the parallel passage, Leviticus 20:22 ff, the idea is, without any doubt, that Israel is not yet in the Holy Land. Accordingly the waw consecutives at this place are to be regarded not as indicating temporal but logical sequences. In the passage Leviticus 18:27, we further find the archaic form hā'ēl for hā'ēlleh; compare in the Pentateuch Genesis 19:8, Genesis 19:25; Genesis 26:3, Genesis 26:4; Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 7:22; Deuteronomy 19:11. Just as little does Leviticus 26 take us into the exilic period. Only dogmatical prejudices can take offense at prediction of the exile. Leviticus 26 cannot be regarded as a “prophecy after the event,” for the reason, too, that the restoration of the people by God's pardon is here promised (compare Leviticus 26:40 ff). And, too, the exile is not the only punishment with which Israel is threatened; and finally as far as Israel is concerned, by the side of the statements concerning their dwelling in one single country (Leviticus 26:34, Leviticus 26:38, Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:44), it is also said that they are to be scattered among many nations and countries (compare Leviticus 26:23, Leviticus 26:26, Leviticus 26:39).

(2) Unity and Construction Point to Mosaic Origin.

If to this we yet add the unity of the thought and of the external construction, looking at the whole matter, we do not see anything that would lead us to accept a post-Mosaic period for this book. Then, too, it is from the outset in itself only probable that Moses gave his people a body of cult-laws and did not leave this matter to chance. We need only think of the great role which among the oriental peoples was assigned to their religious cults. It is indeed nowhere said, in so many words, that Moses wrote even the laws of the Priestly Code. But the references made by Deuteronomy to the Priestly Code; the fact that Numbers 33, which also is credited to Moses, is characterized by the style of Priestly Code; further, that the author of Deuteronomy could write in the style of P (compare Dt 14 with Leviticus 11); and, per contra, that the author of Leviticus 26 had the mastery of the style peculiar to Deuteronomy (compare Dt 28) - all this makes it probable that Moses even wrote these things himself; at any rate, no reasons can be cited against this view. Very interesting in connection with the question of the unity of the Pentateuch are the close connecting links between Leviticus 18:24 ff; Leviticus 20:22 ff, and JE. The question whether Moses in the composition of the book made use of his own notes or of those of others, cannot be decided; but this is an irrelevant matter. What the facts may be in reference to the development of other ordinances, which have taken different forms in the Books of the Covenant and in Priestly Code, or in Deuteronomy and in Priestly Code, and whether the existence of these differences in the cases of particular laws compels us to accept later additions, cannot be discussed at this place. Yet from the outset it is to be emphasized that already in the Mosaic period there could possibly have been reasons for changing some of these laws; especially was this so in the Book of Deuteronomy, just before the people entered the promised land (compare e.g. the laws concerning tithes, Deuteronomy 12:6 f, 17 ff; Deuteronomy 14:22 ff; Deuteronomy 26:12 ff; Leviticus 27:30 ff; Numbers 18:20 ff, or the laws concerning contributions for sacrifices, Deuteronomy 18:3; Leviticus 7:29 ff).

Then, too, the decision whether this development took place as early as the time of Moses or not is not to be made dependent on the possibility of our being able to explain the reasons for such changes. We lack both the daily practice in these cultural ordinances, as also the oral instruction which makes these ordinances intelligible. The manner in which in Leviticus 1 ff the different kinds of sacrifices are introduced sounds as though these were already known to the people and were practiced by them, except in the case of sin and guilt offerings. This is further in harmony with earlier narratives, which already report concerning sacrifices. It is possible that in this way we can also explain a certain relationship between the Jewish sacrificial ritual and that of Babylon (compare Zimmern, Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion). The ordinances in reference to the clean and the unclean may also have emanated from religious and ethical ideas which are older than Moses' times. In this matter the thought was decisive, that everything that was impure, everything that suggested death or decay or sin or displeasure to God, should be kept separated and apart from the religion of YHWH. In all such cases it is not the newness of the laws but their adaptability to the character and spirit of the YHWH-religion that is to be regarded as the decisive factor.

IV. The Significance.

1. Positive:

(1) The Law Contains God's Will.

The law contains God's will, although in transitory form. In the article Ezekiel under II, 2, (3) we have referred to the fact that Leviticism is an important and necessary stage in the development of true religion, and that the entire Old Testament did not advance beyond this stage and was not intended to go beyond it. The leading prophets (Isaiah 40 ff, Jeremiah, Ezekiel), even in their visions of the future, cling to the temple, sacrifices, holy oblations, sacred seasons and persons. Christianity was the first to discard this external shell, after it had ripened the kernel that was concealed in this shell (compare worship in the spirit and in the truth, John 4:20-24). Down to this time, kernel and shell were inseparably united. This must not be forgotten, if we would appreciate the Book of Leviticus properly. It is true that this book to a large extent deals with laws and ordinances, to which we Christians should not and need not return (compare the voice from heaven to Peter, Acts 10:15, “What God hath cleansed, make not thou common,” and Paul's opposition to all work-righteousness that was based on compliance with these external institutions, e.g. in Romans, Galatians, Colossians, as also his independent attitude over against the Jewish law in those cases where it could not be taken into consideration as the way to salvation; compare Acts 21:17 ff; Romans 14:1 ff; 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff). But these laws and ordinances were something more than merely external matters, since they contained the highest religious thoughts. We surely should not forget from the outset that Leviticus 19 contains also the word, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), a command which in Leviticus 19:33 f is even made to cover the strangers too, and which by Jesus, next to the absolute love demanded for God, is designated as the chief commandment of the law (Matthew 22:39); and when in Leviticus 19:17 f the hatred of the brother and desire for revenge on him are forbidden, we already seem to breathe atmosphere of Christianity. The entire Leviticus 19 is, in addition, as it were, a sermon on almost all of the commandments of the Decalogue, the abiding authority of which the Christian, after the example and interpretation of Jesus, will at once recognize. But as the Decalogue itself is found enclosed in the specifically Jewish national shell (compare Exodus 20:2, exodus out of Egypt; Exodus 20:8, Sabbath commandment; Exodus 20:12, promise of the holy land; Exodus 20:17, slaves), so, too, this is the case in Leviticus 19 (compare Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:6 ff, 20-22, 23-25, 29, 30, 33 f). But how little the specifically Levitical ordinances, in the narrower sense of the term, exclude the spiritual factor, and how closely they are interwoven with the deepest of thoughts, can be seen from Leviticus 26, according to which all merely external sacrifices, into which formalism naturally the Levitical legal code could degenerate, do not protect from punishment, if the heart remains uncircumcised (Leviticus 26:30 f, 41).

Above all, there are four leading thoughts which are emphasized forcibly, particularly by the legal system of Priestly Code. In reality all times, all places, all property, all persons are sacred to God. But as it is impossible that this ideal should be realized in view of the imperfections and guilt of man, it was decided that certain particular seasons and places, gifts and persons should be separated from others, and that in these this sacredness should be realized as far as possible, and that these representatives should by their mere existence continually remind the people of God's more comprehensive claims, and at the same time arouse and maintain the consciousness that their entire life was to be saturated by the thoughts of a holy God and His demands. From this point of view, none of the particular laws are worthless; and when they are once appreciated in this their central significance, we can understand that each law has its share in the eternal authority of the law (compare Matthew 5:17 f). Paul, too, who absolutely rejects the law as a way to salvation expresses no doubt that the law really contains the will of God (Romans 8:3 f); and he declares that it was the purpose of the sending of Jesus, that the demands made upon us by the law should be fulfilled; and in Romans 13:10 he tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law (compare Romans 13:8); and according to Romans 7:12, it is certain that the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

(2) The Law Prepares for the Understanding of Christianity.

But the ceremonial law, too, contains not only the demands of God's will. It prepares also for the understanding of the work, the person and the mission of Jesus. In Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45 f; Exodus 40:34 ff the indwelling of God in the tent of meeting is declared, which prophesied the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus (John 1:14); and then the indwelling of God through the Holy Spirit in the Christian congregation (1 Peter 2:5; Epehesians 4:12) and in the individual (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; John 14:23). Through the sacrificial system in Leviticus 1 through 7, and the ordinances of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), we are enabled to understand the character of sin, of grace and of the forgiveness of sin (compare Day Of Atonement, II.). Let us remember to what extent Jesus and Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the other New Testament writings operate with Old Testament thoughts, particularly with those of Leviticus (priest-hood, sacrifices, atonement, Passover, signification of blood, etc.), and Paul correctly says that the righteousness of God was prophesied, not only by the prophets, but also by the law (Romans 3:21).

(3) The Law as a Tutor Unto Christ.

Finally, the ceremonial law too has the purpose to protect Israel from the errors of the heathen, a thought that is especially emphasized in the Law of Holiness (compare Leviticus 18:3, Leviticus 18:14 ff; Leviticus 19:26 ff; Leviticus 20:2 ff, 22 ff; Leviticus 26:1) and which is in harmony with the elementary stage of Israel's education in the Old Testament, when the people still stood in need of the “tutor ... unto Christ” (Galatians 3:23 f; Galatians 4:1). This already leads us over to the negative side, which Paul particularly emphasizes.

2. Negative:

The law is in itself holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Romans 7:12), but it has lost its power because the flesh of man is sinful (compare Romans 8:3); and thus it happens that the law is the occasion for sin and leads to a knowledge of sin and to an increase of sin (compare Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:13); and this shall be brought about according to the purposes of God in order that in upright hearts the desire for forgiveness should arise. It is true that nothing was so well adapted as were the details of the law, to bring to consciousness in the untutored mind that in which man yet came short of the Divine commands. And as far as the removal of the guilt was concerned, nothing was needed except the reference to this in order to make men feel their imperfections (compare Heb 7 through 10). God merely out of grace was for the time being contented with the blood of goats and of calves as a means for atonement; He was already counting on the forgiveness in Christ (Romans 3:25). All the sacrifices in Leviticus 1 through 7, e.g., did not make the ritual of the Day of Atonement superfluous (Leviticus 16); and in this case the very man who brought the sacrifice was also a sinful creature who must first secure the forgiveness of God for himself. Only Jesus, at once the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice, has achieved the perfect redemption. It accordingly remains a fact that the righteousness which avails before God can be secured only through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through the deeds of the law (Romans and Galatians).

The law with its incomplete atonement and with its arousing of the consciousness of sin drives man to Jesus; and this is its negative significance. Jesus, however, who Himself has fulfilled the demands of the law, gives us through His spirit the power, that the law with its demands (1., (1) above) may no longer stand threateningly over against us, but is now written in our hearts. In this way the Old Testament law is fulfilled in its transitory form, and at the same time becomes superfluous, after its eternal contents have been recognized, maintained and surpassed.


Commentaries by Ryssel, Lange, Keil, Strack, Baentsch, Bertholet; especially for the Law of Holiness see Horst, Leviticus 17 through 26 and Ezekiel; Wurster, Zeitschrift fur alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1884, 112 ff; Baentsch, Das Heiligkeitsgesetz; Klostermann, Der Pentateuch, 368 ff; Delitzsch, Zeitschrift fur kirch. Wissenschaft und Leben, 1880, 617 ff; Intros to the Old Testament by Baudissin, Strack, Kuenen, Konig, Cornill, Driver, Sellin; Archaeology, by Benzinger, Nowack; History of Israel, by Kohler, Konig, Kittel, Oettli, Klostermann, Stade, Wellhausen; for kindred laws in Babylonia, compare Zimmern, Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babyl. Religion; against the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, Moller, Are the Critics Right? (ibid., “Literature”), and article Ezekiel in this Encyclopedia; Orr, Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament; Wiener, Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, Wiener, Origin of the Pentateuch; Hoffmann, Die wichtigsten Instanzen gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese; Kegel, Wilh. Vatke und die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese.

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