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Biblical Studies Leviticus
by
Jeffrey Stackert, Samuel L. Boyd

Introduction

The book of Leviticus is part of the priestly source of the Pentateuch and not in itself a discrete literary unit. Set at Mt. Sinai during the thirteenth month of the Israelites’ wilderness journey, it is dominated by divine laws delivered to Moses for the Israelite community. The primary concern of these laws is to establish the requisite circumstances for the deity’s habitation among the Israelite people. The priestly authors claim that following the commandments in Leviticus will ensure the tangible benefits and protection of the divine presence in the Israelites’ midst. Failure to adhere to these laws will result in the deity’s departure from the Tabernacle and the loss of divine benefaction. Leviticus consists of two main compositional strata: P (“Priestly”), which comprises most of chapters 1–16; and H (“Holiness”), which includes the “Holiness Code” (chapters 17–26; so named because of its repeated exhortation to the Israelites to be holy); the addendum on vows, dedications, and tithes in chapter 27; and brief interpolations in chapters 1–16. These two strata are distinguishable on the basis of ideological and stylistic differences. Recent scholarship suggests that H was composed to revise, supplement, and complete the P, even as H agrees with P’s basic historical myth and religious ideology. Many of H’s innovations over P are mediating positions between P and nonpriestly Pentateuchal legislation.

Commentaries and Short Introductions

Modern, critical commentary treatments of the book of Leviticus, including book-length studies as well as short commentaries and introductory essays, normally focus on the compositional strata of the book; the social, anthropological, and historical background of the various religious ideas and practices described therein; and the theological perspectives of its authors.

Book-Length Studies

Driver and White 1898 is a particularly useful early critical commentary. Ehrlich 1908–1914 remains relevant due to its insightful text-critical and exegetical insights. Noth 1977 is brief but well represents mid-20th-century German views. Elliger 1966 is the first major treatment of Leviticus to date the “Holiness” stratum (H) after the “Priestly” (P) stratum in the book. The most-extensive and influential commentaries are Milgrom 1991, Milgrom 2000, and Milgrom 2001, and Levine 1989 provides useful alternative perspectives to Milgrom’s. Rendtorff 1985–2004 offers a major contemporary German perspective.

  • Driver, S. R., and M. A. White. The Book of Leviticus. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1898.

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    A short critical commentary on Leviticus. The authors use color coding where they see different layers in the text. The notes contain text-critical evaluations and references to other works in the history of scholarship (such as those by Abraham Geiger and August Dillmann) for fuller explanations.

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  • Ehrlich, Arnold B. Randglossen zur hebräischen Bibel: Textkritisches, sprachliches und sachliches. 7 vols. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1908–1914.

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    Ehrlich translated and expanded his Hebrew commentary Mikra ki-feshuto (Berlin: M. Popfelauer, 1899–1900) into a fuller, seven-volume German edition. Much like the Hebrew, the text-critical comments in this edition are often insightful, as are the broader exegetical insights. Occasionally, comparative Semitic evidence (such as Arabic) is used.

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  • Elliger, Karl. Leviticus. Handbuch zum Alten Testament 4. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1966.

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    Elliger’s commentary contains helpful text-critical notes. He approaches the text of Leviticus as divided into several layers. The Grundschrift of P is divided into two parts, labeled Pg1 and Pg2. Likewise, he divides the offering legislation into two parts, Po1 and Po2. According to Elliger, the Holiness Code has four layers, labeled Ph1 through Ph4.

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  • Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation. JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

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    Levine’s commentary on Leviticus provides a scholarly product that combines both critical insight and traditional Jewish exegesis. The notes at times emphasize traditional readings (such as Rashi, Sifra, etc.) over critical insights. The commentary includes various excurses that cover a variety of themes and topics from the book of Leviticus.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

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    Milgrom provides a compendious treatment of Leviticus. He draws especially on anthropological, sociological, and comparative ancient Near Eastern data to explore the rituals and religious ideology described in the book. He also makes extensive use of Second Temple, rabbinic, and medieval Jewish sources in his exegesis.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17–22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3a. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

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    Milgrom’s second volume, which includes an extensive introduction to the Holiness Code, which he views as postdating P (following Elliger and Knohl). Milgrom suggests that the final layer of H serves as the Pentateuchal redactor.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 23–27: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3b. New York: Doubleday, 2001.

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    The completion of Milgrom’s magisterial work. This volume also includes appendixes in which Milgrom responds to his critics and offers addenda and corrigenda.

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  • Noth, Martin. Leviticus: A Commentary. Translated by J. E. Anderson. Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977.

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    A terse commentary on Leviticus. The entries of each passage are in larger blocks (such as an extended discussion of Leviticus 4:1–6:7 under the rubric of “occasions for atoning sacrifices”), and the discussions lack much of the detail that one might want. The comments, however, remain valuable. Originally published in 1965.

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  • Rendtorff, Rolf. Leviticus. 4 vols. Biblischer Kommentar Altes Testament 3. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins, 1985–2004.

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    Rendtorff’s commentary on Leviticus is currently four volumes and covers Leviticus 1–10. Volume 2 leads directly into Volume 3, since the discussion of Leviticus 4:1–5:26 extends across these volumes. Introductory comments are given for Leviticus 1–7 as well as Leviticus 8–10, and excurses appear throughout.

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Short Commentaries and Introductory Essays

Moore 1902 is an excellent entry from the early period of source criticism. Levine 1992 covers the major critical and interpretive issues in light of more-recent research, as does Milgrom 1992, with a focus on the P source (rather than the book of Leviticus per se). The best brief commentary (and a highly informative one despite its brevity) is Schwartz 2004. Stackert 2010 builds on Schwartz 2004 and expands its view, especially with regard to literary interactions between H and the nonpriestly Pentateuchal sources.

  • Levine, Baruch A. “Leviticus, Book of.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 311–321. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Levine includes, in addition to a description of contents and interpretive issues, text-critical comments, as well as some comparative remarks regarding the place and role of Leviticus in the context of other ancient Near Eastern works. A brief bibliography is included at the end.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. “Priestly (‘P’) Source.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 5. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 454–461. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Milgrom lays out basic distinctions between P and H on the basis of ideology and style. He also provides an overview of the major theological concern of the P source. He summarizes the arguments for the dating of P and concludes that the preexilic age is the best option for dating this source. Milgrom also argues that P likely derives from the sanctuary at Shilo.

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  • Moore, G. F. “Leviticus.” In Encyclopædia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of the Literary Political and Religious History, the Archæology, Geography, and Natural History of the Bible. Vol. 3. Edited by T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, 2776–2793. New York: Macmillan, 1902.

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    Moore provides an overview of each of the major sections of Leviticus. He also discusses the nature of the Holiness Code, the relationship of H to P, the date and redaction of P, and the relationship between H and Ezekiel.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “Leviticus.” In The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, 203–280. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Schwartz offers the best-available brief introduction and notes on the book of Leviticus. The notes are keyed to the New Jewish Publication Society translation and are an excellent source for critical inquiry as well as rabbinic and early Jewish interpretation.

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  • Stackert, Jeffrey. “Leviticus.” In The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha. 4th ed. Edited by Michael D. Coogan, 141–183. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Stackert’s commentary is keyed to the New Revised Standard Version translation of Leviticus. It treads a medial path between Israeli and Continental European perspectives.

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Composition and Strata

The composition of the book of Leviticus and the layers posited in its literary development are major issues of scholarly discussion. These concerns extend to the historical and social context of the production of its texts, the book’s internal literary coherence, and especially the book’s division into two main parts, Leviticus 1–16 and 17–26 (27), the latter being the “Holiness Code.”

The Priestly (P) Source

Most scholars view the priestly source in the Torah as composite. Shectman and Baden 2009 represents much of the current discussion of strata in P. Koch 1959 and Rendtorff 1963 are influential studies from the mid-20th century that reflect well the developments in European thought of the time. Cross 1973 has been a very influential work in the United States. It argues for P as a redactional stratum in the Pentateuch. Blum 1990 characterizes P both as source and redaction. Rendtorff 1993 is a useful European response to the major American interpreter of Leviticus, Jacob Milgrom. Nihan 2007 is the most recent comprehensive study of P and well reflects current European thought. Paran 1989 is a highly useful investigation of P’s literary style. Schwartz 1996 reasserts the independence of the P source through a detailed reconstruction of its Sinai account.

  • Blum, Erhard. Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch. Beiheft zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 189. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110879506Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This highly influential work attempts to combine diachronic and synchronic approaches, yet it can be characterized as broadly redaction-critical. Blum follows his teacher, Rolf Rendtorff, in rejecting the documentary hypothesis and instead argues for two main stages in the composition of the Pentateuch, a Deuteronomic Komposition (KD) and a priestly Komposition (KP). Blum does not separate P and H.

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  • Cross, Frank Moore. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

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    The essay titled “The Priestly Work” in this work is particularly relevant for Leviticus. Cross argues that P was a supplement, not an independent source. The article concerns itself primarily with the narrative of P, and thus Leviticus is barely mentioned. Yet, the conclusions drawn show a belief in the distinction, similar as Noth’s hypothesis, between narrative and legal material.

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  • Koch, Klaus. Die Priesterschrift von Exodus 25 bis Leviticus 16: Eine überlieferungsgeschichtliche und literarkritische Untersuchung. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 71. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1959.

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    Koch offers a tradition history and literary analysis of the P source from Exodus 25 through Leviticus 16. He breaks down this section into smaller bits for his examination: Exodus 25–31, Exodus 34:29–40:33, Exodus 40:34–Leviticus 7, Leviticus 8–10, and Leviticus 11–16. He provides an appendix regarding the ritual as it appears in Ezekiel 40–48.

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  • Nihan, Christophe. From Priestly Torah to Pentateuch: A Study in the Composition of the Book of Leviticus. Forschungen zum Alten Testament, 2d ser., 25. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

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    Nihan explores the transition between the composition of Leviticus and the compilation of the Pentateuch. His approach is primarily redaction-critical; however, he also investigates the internal coherence of Leviticus and its position in its ancient Near Eastern context. He argues that P originally ended with Leviticus 16, and he suggests that Leviticus 10 is the latest stratum within the book.

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  • Paran, Meir. Darkhe ha-signon ha-kohani ba-Torah: Degamim, shimushe lashon, mivnim. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1989.

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    Paran identifies the priestly style by contrasting parallel passages in P and other biblical law. The style of P is prolix and characterized by several patterns, including the “circular inclusio,” concluding deviation, chiasm, and seven- and ten-fold repetitions. Paran dates P to the time of Hezekiah, even though it did not become widely known until the Second Temple period.

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  • Rendtorff, Rolf. Die Gesetze in Der Priesterschrift: Eine Gattungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 62. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963.

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    This study is the form-critical dissertation of Rendtorff, guided by Gerhard von Rad. It is an assessment of the law in P (minus H), namely Leviticus 1–15. This material is also brought into conversation with other texts from Exodus and Numbers (as well as Leviticus 16).

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  • Rendtorff, R. “Two Kinds of P? Some Reflections on the Occasion of the Publishing of Jacob Milgrom’s Commentary on Leviticus 1–16.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 18.60 (1993): 75–81.

    DOI: 10.1177/030908929301806005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rendtorff explores the presentation of P in Milgrom’s first volume of his Leviticus commentary. He asks several questions unaddressed in the commentary. For example, Rendtorff asks how Milgrom views layers in P, how Leviticus relates to P narrative elsewhere in the Pentateuch, and how the language of P relates to the language of other biblical texts.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “The Priestly Account of the Theophany and Lawgiving at Sinai.” In Texts, Temples and Traditions: A Tribute to Menahem Haran. Edited by Michael V. Fox, Victor Avidgor Hurowitz, Avi Hurvitz, Michael L. Klein, Baruch J. Schwartz, and Nili Shupak, 103–134. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996.

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    Schwartz argues against the view that P was a supplementary source or redactional layer. He reconstructs the narrative of P to indicate that the absence of covenant at Sinai, as well as other omissions, is simply characteristic of P’s narrative. Schwartz also contrasts P’s Sinai account with those of J, E, and D.

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  • Shectman, Sarah, and Joel S. Baden, eds. The Strata of the Priestly Writings: Contemporary Debate and Future Directions. Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments 95. Zürich, Switzerland: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2009.

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    This volume contains essays presented in special sessions of the European Association for Biblical Studies meeting in Vienna in 2007. It includes contributions both by senior and junior scholars. Concerned with the stratification of the Pentateuchal priestly source, it well represents American, Continental, and Israeli perspectives.

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Holiness (H) Code / Holiness Stratum

The “Holiness Code” refers to Leviticus 17–26 and is so named because of these chapters’ concern for Israelite holiness. It was first identified as a unit by August Klostermann in 1877. Though initially thought to be an earlier composition integrated into P, H is now thought by most scholars to be a later addition written with knowledge of P, as argued in Knohl 1995 and Schwartz 1999. Grünwaldt 1999 differs from many others on this point, because Grünwaldt argues that H was composed as an independent work, albeit still after P. Several works, including Cholewiński 1976, Otto 1999, and Stackert 2007, argue for H’s reuse of Deuteronomy in its composition. Joosten 1996 and Chavel 2009 provide detailed studies of specific issues in H. Otto 1994 argues that H is the Pentateuchal redactor (a view followed by several other authors, including Knohl, Milgrom, Achenbach, and Nihan).

  • Chavel, Simeon. “‘Oracular Novellae’ and Biblical Historiography: Through the Lens of Law and Narrative.” Clio 39 (2009): 1–27.

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    Chavel considers the origin and function of four brief, priestly narratives of Moses seeking oracular instruction in response to specific events (Leviticus 24:10–23, Numbers 9:1–14, Numbers 15:32–36, Numbers 27:1–11). He shows the nature of the relationship of law and narrative in these texts, a topic of central importance not only to Leviticus 24:10–23 but also to the book of Leviticus as a whole.

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  • Cholewiński, Alfred. Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium: Eine vergleichende Studie. Analecta Biblica 66. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976.

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    Cholewiński offers a complex redactional analysis of the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17–26), dividing its composition into five main strata (as well as several minor additions). He then argues for the direct literary dependence of the Holiness Code on portions of the book of Deuteronomy. He views the Babylonian exile as the motivation for the composition of the Holiness Code.

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  • Grünwaldt, Klaus. Das Heiligkeitsgesetz Leviticus 17–26: Ursprüngliche Gestalt, Tradition und Theologie. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 271. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999.

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    Grünwaldt examines the traditions that make up the Holiness Code. He provides a source analysis of each chapter, as well as a consideration of the traditions involved in the creation of the H law and the redaction leading to the form of each chapter. He also examines the role of the Holiness Code in the New Testament.

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  • Joosten, J. People and Land in the Holiness Code: An Exegetical Study of the Ideational Framework of the Law in Leviticus 17–26. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 67. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.

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    Joosten assesses the role of the addressees (the people of Israel) and the place of implementation (the land of Israel) of the Holiness Code. In doing so, he seeks to find the ideological framing of the legal code. The study includes a history of research on the Holiness Code as well as concluding remarks on H and Deuteronomy and the historical setting of H.

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  • Knohl, Israel. The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School. Translated by J. Feldman and P. Rodman. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995.

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    Knohl identifies two priestly strata with different theologies, the P stratum (which he calls the Priestly Torah, or PT) and the H stratum (the Holiness School, or HS). He claims that HS postdates PT and that HS was responsible for the redaction of the Torah as a whole. Knohl provides a historical framework for each stratum, as well as an explanation for the emergence and rise of the HS.

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  • Otto, Eckart. “Das Heiligkeitsgesetz Leviticus 17–26 in der Pentateuchredaktion.” In Altes Testament, Forschung und Wirkung: Festschrift für Henning Graf Reventlow. Edited by Peter Mommer and Winfried Thiel, 65–80. Frankfurt: P. Lang, 1994.

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    Otto examines the role of the Holiness Code in the redaction of the entire Pentateuch. He argues that H serves as the Pentateuchal redactor, combining priestly and nonpriestly materials. In the process, Deuteronomy was subordinated to the Sinai/Horeb laws in Exodus. He gives in-depth comments regarding Leviticus 17 and 19 and offers instructive visuals with respect to the structure and content of the Holiness Code.

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  • Otto, Eckart. “Innerbiblische Exegese im Heiligkeitsgesetz Levitikus 17–26.” In Levitikus als Buch. Edited by Heinz-Josef Fabry and Hans-Winfried Jüngling, 125–196. Bonner Biblische Beiträge 119. Berlin: Philo, 1999.

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    Otto argues that the Holiness Code reuses and revises material from the Decalogue, the Book of the Covenant, Deuteronomy, and P. He moves systematically through Leviticus 17–26 to show the correspondences between H and other Pentateuchal law collections and to argue for H’s posteriority and dependence on them. Based on such findings of dependence, H may be dated to the postexilic period.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. Torat ha-kedushah: ʿIyunim be-ḥukah ha-kohanit sheba-Torah. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1999.

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    Schwartz provides an in-depth, exegetical study of H, which he terms the “Holiness Legislation.” H is almost exclusively legal and is written primarily to supplement P (and only secondarily to revise it). Schwartz focuses on Leviticus 17–19 and gives special attention to literary style. He also argues for the independence of P and H from the other Torah sources.

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  • Stackert, Jeffrey. Rewriting the Torah: Literary Revision in Deuteronomy and the Holiness Legislation. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 52. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

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    Stackert argues that correspondences between the Deuteronomic source (D) and H reveal a direct literary relationship between the two compositions. A similar relationship exists between H and the Covenant Code. Stackert argues that H utilizes previous sources to create a new “super law,” one that is meant to supersede and replace the law codes that precede H.

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Language and Dating

A major scholarly debate has centered on the dating of the priestly source of the Torah, including the book of Leviticus. Wellhausen famously maintained that the “Priestly” stratum (P) was the latest of the sources, while Kaufmann argues in response that P is the earliest source. More recently scholars have attempted to date P linguistically by distinguishing its Standard Biblical Hebrew from Late Biblical Hebrew. Hurvitz (Hurvitz 1974, Hurvitz 1982, Hurvitz 1988) in particular has been a leading voice in this discussion. Blenkinsopp 1996 offers a critique of this linguistic approach. Beginning already with Wellhausen and the anti-Semitic overtones in his work, much of the discussion on dating P falls along religio-cultural lines (with Jewish scholars, including the authors of Speiser 1967, Cohen 1969, Haran 1979, Zevit 1982, and Weinfeld 2004, giving special attention to dating P and tending to date it earlier than non-Jewish scholars).

  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “An Assessment of the Alleged Pre-Exilic Date of the Priestly Material in the Pentateuch.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 108 (1996): 495–518.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.1996.108.4.495Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Blenkinsopp reviews the history of scholarship in which the priestly material was first dated as an early Pentateuchal stratum, then was dated as the latest, and under some newer trends dated to the preexilic period again. He especially juxtaposes the arguments of Wellhausen and Kaufmann. Linguistic and lexical evidence for a preexilic date of P is examined and deemed unpersuasive.

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  • Cohen, Chayim. “Was the P Document Secret?” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 1.2 (1969): 39–44.

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    Cohen builds on Kaufmann’s view that P shows no awareness of, and antedated, the Deuteronomic source (D). Moreover, Cohen advances Ginsberg’s argument that P lacked influence in preexilic Israel because it remained in the sole possession of the priestly class. Cohen claims that Ginsberg’s parallels as well as other Akkadian colophons provide a genre analogy with P that supports the secrecy thesis.

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  • Haran, Menahem. “The Law Code of Ezekiel XL–XLVIII and Its Relation to the Priestly School.” Hebrew Union College Annual 50 (1979): 45–71.

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    Haran analyzes Ezekiel 40–48, Ezekiel’s “law code,” and compares it with P. The correspondences are used to show the preexilic nature of P, the correspondence of various laws, and the radical divergence of Ezekiel and P. Haran then discusses the footing of certain practices in P that have lost prominence by the time of Ezekiel.

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  • Hurvitz, Avi. “The Evidence of Language in Dating the Priestly Code: A Linguistic Study in Technical Idioms and Terminology.” Revue Biblique 81 (1974): 24–56.

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    Hurvitz proposes that linguistic considerations can adjudicate between postexilic and exilic idiom on the one hand, and preexilic terminology and idiom on the other. Hurvitz claims that the idiom and language of P share none of the linguistic characteristics of later priestly literature. Thus, Hurvitz argues for a preexilic date for P.

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  • Hurvitz, Avi. A Linguistic Study of the Relationship between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel: A New Approach to an Old Problem. Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 20. Paris: J. Gabalda, 1982.

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    Hurvitz uses linguistic considerations to argue for the antiquity of P. In contrast to P’s linguistic characteristics, Ezekiel’s linguistic profile tends more toward the later period of biblical Hebrew and priestly writings. Thus, while P is preexilic (its language reflecting truly ancient characteristics and not the archaizing of a scribe), Ezekiel emerged at a later period, likely during the exile.

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  • Hurvitz, Avi. “Dating the Priestly Source in Light of the Historical Study of Biblical Hebrew a Century after Wellhausen.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 100 (1988): 88–99.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.1988.100.s1.88Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hurvitz critiques Wellhausen’s view that P contains a “great poverty of language.” He claims that the terminology and linguistic characteristics evident in the later priestly sources are absent in the P source and thus date P to the preexilic period. Hurvitz focuses on linguistic characteristics of entire literary periods rather than literary styles of individual authors.

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  • Speiser, E. A. “Leviticus and the Critics.” In Oriental and Biblical Studies: Collected Writings of E. A. Speiser. Edited by J. J. Finkelstein and Moshe Greenberg, 123–142. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1967.

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    While not arguing for a unified composition, Speiser examines selected passages in Leviticus and demonstrates in each case the antiquity of each passage. He claims that his study broadly supports the conclusions reached by Kaufmann regarding the antiquity of priestly literature. He concludes that such antiquity may even at times be pre-Mosaic, while at other points P may postdate the Mosaic period.

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  • Weinfeld, Moshe. The Place of the Law in the Religion of Ancient Israel. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 100. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    Weinfeld challenges Wellhausen with regard to the priestly source. He defends Kaufmann’s findings regarding the antiquity of P, providing support for the antiquity of P based on ancient Near Eastern documents. Weinfeld claims that the differences between P and D do not cohere with the basic model Wellhausen proposed.

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  • Zevit, Ziony. “Converging Lines of Evidence Bearing on the Date of P.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (1982): 481–510.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.1982.94.4.481Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Zevit consolidates many preceding studies on the date of P, beginning with Wellhausen, the debunking of many of Wellhausen’s presuppositions, and the linguistic dating given by Polzin and Hurvitz. Zevit posits the question: Can a terminus ad quem for the composition of P be discovered? He answers this question affirmatively, claiming that the exile of 586 BCE is the latest possible date for the composition of P.

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Religion and Cult

Though part of the larger priestly narrative, the bulk of Leviticus is religious legislation and ritual instruction. The primary foci of these laws and rituals are sacrifice, purity, sin, purgation, and holiness. The priestly rules and rituals seem to reflect a well-conceived system of religious thought (thus, many of the subsections here are overlapping), even if it is not fully consistent in all of its parts. In priestly perspective, YHWH has chosen the Israelites, made promises to them, and expects their fidelity. His commitment to them is unbreakable, but they must fastidiously obey his commands to maintain proximity to him. The two major studies that have provided parameters for the field’s larger discussion of priestly religion are Wellhausen 1957, which portrays the “Priestly” stratum (P) negatively, and Kaufmann 1960, which attempts to rebut Wellhausen. Haran 1978 builds on and revises Kaufmann 1960. Milgrom 1983, Gorman 1990, and Olyan 2000 each focus on the social and ritual dynamics of priestly thought, with special attention to Leviticus. Watts 2007 engages the rhetoric of Leviticus’s presentation of its ritual.

  • Gorman, Frank H., Jr. The Ideology of Ritual: Space, Time and Status in the Priestly Theology. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1990.

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    A revised version of the author’s dissertation; Gorman presents a study of ritual in priestly writings, based on cultural anthropology. He focuses his examination on texts such as (in order) Leviticus 16, Leviticus 8, Exodus 34:29–35, Leviticus 14:1–20, Numbers 19, and Numbers 28–29. By situating these texts within a more theoretical framework, Gorman hopes to reveal the underpinnings of priestly worldview and ritual.

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  • Haran, Menahem. Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into the Character of Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978.

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    Haran argues for the antiquity of P material, in distinction from much of mainline critical thought, which dates P to the exilic or postexilic period. He supports his thesis with extensive discussion on the details of the Tabernacle and Temple, the High Priest, and the role of these institutions in ancient Israel. His discussion includes rites within the Tabernacle and Temple, such as feast days in Leviticus and the Passover sacrifice.

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  • Kaufmann, Yehezkel. The Religion of Israel: From Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile. Translated and abridged by Moshe Greenberg. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.

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    This abridgement of Kaufmann’s eight-volume Hebrew work refutes some the basic tenets of Wellhausen. Kaufmann addresses the theory of the late dating of P, opting instead for a preexilic and pre-Deuteronomic one. Fundamental to his argument are elements of P that cohere with the rest of the ancient Near East and the relationship between the prophets and the Pentateuchal sources.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology. Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 36. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983.

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    Milgrom collects here several essays from the first part of his career. The essays are grouped in such sections as “The Antiquity of P,” “The Hattaʾt Sacrifice,” “Other Sacrifices and Rituals,” and “Dedicatory Rites.” Each entry includes the source of the original publication in the table of contents. An introduction not previously published is provided, which discusses the dating of P.

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  • Olyan, Saul M. Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    Olyan provides an examination of binary oppositions in the cult and society of ancient Israel, oppositions that created a hierarchical society in which certain members qualified as pure and others as impure. Dyads considered throughout his work include holy versus common, unclean versus clean, Israel versus alien, and whole versus blemished.

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  • Watts, James W. Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus: From Sacrifice to Scripture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rather than attempting to reconstruct real religious practice from the biblical text, Watts focuses on the rhetoric of Leviticus’s presentation of ritual and its social effects in the historical contexts of this literature’s composition and interpretation. Watts emphasizes that Leviticus buttresses the social prestige of the priests and thus the way that this composition could thereby reinforce priestly religion.

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  • Wellhausen, Julius. Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel. Translated by A. Menzies and J. S. Black. New York: World, 1957.

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    Wellhausen describes the development of Israelite religion, including the priestly cult, by means of Pentateuchal source division. He claims that P is the latest source (only in the postexilic Second Temple period, when one can claim that P existed) and the forerunner to rabbinic Judaism.

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Sacrifice

A major focus of Leviticus is the priestly sacrificial system. Leviticus 1–7 is entirely dedicated to sacrifice, as are portions of the rest of the book. Both Galling 1925 and Hallo 1987 provide comparative perspectives on sacrifice. Rendtorff 1967, Levine 1974, Anderson 1987, and Zevit 1996 give special focus to the specific Israelite sacrifices described in Leviticus and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Schwartz 1996 discusses special “Holiness” stratum (H) perspectives on sacrifice and slaughter. Both Brichto 1976 and Gilders 2004 discuss, among other issues, the manipulation of blood and its significance within the sacrificial cult.

  • Anderson, Gary A. Sacrifices and Offerings in Ancient Israel: Studies in Their Social and Political Importance. Harvard Semitic Monographs 41. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.

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    Anderson explores the social function of sacrifices and offerings in ancient Israel. Considerations include what priestly texts seek to achieve from a sociopolitical perspective in their description of the sacrificial system. The author also includes an analysis of cultic terminology. The appendices provide philological treatment of the more debated terms of this cultic diction.

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  • Brichto, H. C. “On Slaughter and Sacrifice, Blood and Atonement.” Hebrew Union College Annual 47 (1976): 19–55.

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    A study on various interrelated concerns regarding sacrifice and the cult. Brichto examines the philological basis for kpr, assesses the nonmagical role of blood in the sacrificial process, and discusses and critiques Wellhausen’s and Kaufmann’s methods of dating priestly texts. Rabbinic sources and the New Testament are also examined for their perspectives on the role of blood in sacrifice and the sacrificial cult.

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  • Galling, Kurt. Der Altar in den Kulturen des alten Orients: Eine archäologische Studie. Berlin: K. Curtius, 1925.

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    While not specifically related to the text of Leviticus, this book offers descriptions of various types of altars from the ancient Near East. The data include surveys from Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Syria, and Phoenician altars. As such, Galling includes altars relevant for understanding biblical sacrifice, such as the four-horned altar. The back of the book includes drawings of the various types.

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  • Gilders, William K. Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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    Gilders investigates the various blood rituals in the Hebrew Bible, with special emphasis on Pentateuchal priestly literature. He then offers a detailed study of Leviticus 17:11 and concludes that, as an H composition, it cannot be viewed as normative for understanding P’s views of blood and blood manipulation.

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  • Hallo, W. W. “The Origins of the Sacrificial Cult: New Evidence from Mesopotamia and Israel.” In Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross. Edited by Patrick D. Miller Jr., Paul D. Hanson, and S. Dean McBride Jr., 3–13. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.

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    Hallo offers a comparative evaluation of biblical sacrifice and sacrifice in Babylonian and Sumerian texts. Much like Mesopotamian practice, Hallo claims that biblical conceptions of sacrifice were originally intended to sanctify consumption but that biblical mandates avoided anthropomorphisms, unlike their Mesopotamian counterparts.

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  • Levine, Baruch A. In the Presence of the Lord: A Study of Cult and Some Cultic Terms in Ancient Israel. Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 5. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974.

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    Levine offers a detailed discussion of the various offerings in biblical priestly literature. He argues that the šelamim is a gift offering, while the burnt offering (ʿolah) is an invocation offering. He also suggests that there are two types of hattaʾt offerings, one purificatory and the other expiatory, for specific offenses of the people.

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  • Rendtorff, Rolf. Studien zur Geschichte des Opfers im alten Israel. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1967.

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    Rendtorff provides a full account of the phenomenon of offering in the biblical material. He focuses on priestly texts such as Leviticus 1–7 (he also includes H and Ezekiel 40–48 under the heading of priestly texts). He then explores offerings in biblical texts outside of the priestly material. Next, he examines each offering by type (“ʿolah,” “mincha,” etc.), before giving his conclusions.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “‘Profane’ Slaughter and the Integrity of the Priestly Code.” Hebrew Union College Annual 67 (1996): 15–42.

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    Schwartz contends that Leviticus 17:3–7 is a unity and that this passage contains an absolute prohibition of profane slaughter, a prohibition that is completely at odds with the Deuteronomic source (D) and thus reveals that D and P/H are unaware of each other.

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  • Zevit, Ziony. “The Earthen Altar Laws of Exodus 20:24–26 and Related Sacrificial Restrictions in Their Cultural Context.” In Texts, Temples and Traditions: A Tribute to Menahem Haran. Edited by Michael V. Fox, Victor Avidgor Hurowitz, Avi Hurvitz, Michael L. Klein, Baruch J. Schwartz, and Nili Shupak, 53–62. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996.

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    Zevit examines the role of the altar law in Exodus 20:24–26 for other biblical texts concerning altars and sacrifice, most notably Leviticus 17. Both the Exodus and Leviticus sacrificial commands recognize a common problem: sacrifice, if performed incorrectly, can appear to be offered to a chthonic god, a deity other than Yahweh.

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Impurity, Sin, and Purification

Impurity, sin, and purification are perhaps the most-important elements of the priestly worldview and theology. Klawans 2000 emphasizes the dual nature of impurity in priestly thought and its persistence in post-biblical thought. Wright 1991 shows the range of different impurities in P and their relation to its larger cultic system. Milgrom’s three studies from 1976 (Milgrom 1976a, Milgrom 1976b, and Milgrom 1976c), Kiuchi 1987, and Wright 1987 describe P’s procedures for eliminating impurity and the reasons this is necessary. Schwartz 1995 provides a useful clarification and extension of Milgrom’s views on sin and its effects on the Israelite sanctuary.

  • Anderson, Gary A. Sin: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

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    Anderson argues that the metaphor for sin in the Hebrew Bible changes from burden and stain to debt, primarily through the influence of Aramaic. In light of this shift in metaphor, Anderson traces the substance of theological reflection and debate regarding sin and atonement in early Judaism and Christianity up to the Reformation.

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  • Kiuchi, N. The Purification Offering in the Priestly Literature: Its Meaning and Function. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 56. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1987.

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    A study of the purification offering in priestly literature as a means of understanding the atonement, namely whether the hattaʾt offering is expiatory or purificatory. Kiuchi argues that the decision between the two options results from contextual considerations, much like the word kipper.

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  • Klawans, Jonathan. Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195132908.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Klawans argues that the Hebrew Bible describes two kinds of impurity—ritual impurity and moral impurity. Moral impurity is also widely attested in post-biblical Jewish literature. Klawans discusses the relationship between sin and impurity in Philo, Qumran literature, the tannaim, and New Testament literature. In so doing, he shows the long and extensive reach of Leviticus in Judaism and Christianity.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. Cult and Conscience: The Asham and Priestly Doctrine of Repentance. Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 18. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1976a.

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    Milgrom attempts to distinguish features of the hattaʾt and asham sacrifices, both of which are expiatory. He gives priority to the asham, since it is included in the hattaʾt offering. Moreover, he argues that Leviticus is more than a pastiche of offerings; it is a coherent document.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly ‘Picture of Dorian Gray.’” Revue Biblique 83 (1976b): 390–399.

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    Milgrom argues that the blood ritual in the hattaʾt offering does not purify the offender but rather the sanctuary. Meticulous maintenance of purity, including the removal of impurity, ensures the continued presence of the deity in the midst of Israel.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. “Two Kinds of Ḥaṭṭāʾt.” Vetus Testamentum 26 (1976c): 333–337.

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    Milgrom claims that the distinction between hattaʾt offerings offered in the inner sanctuary and those burned outside points to two different sacrifices—two different types of purification rites. As opposed to B. A. Levine, who states that only the burnt hattaʾt offers purification, Milgrom argues that both the burnt and consumed hattaʾt offerings secure purification.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “The Bearing of Sin in the Priestly Literature.” In Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom. Edited by David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz, 3–21. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995.

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    Schwartz shows how the phrase “to bear sin” functions in priestly literature as an objective statement of legal fact. He indicates the flexibility of this metaphor in P’s conception of sin, which can refer to the consequence of sin, the deed instead of the penalty, or the remission of sin. See Anderson 2009 for a theological expansion of Schwartz’s insight.

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  • Wright, David P. The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 101. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.

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    Wright focuses on the expulsion of impurity with regard to non–human beings and the disposal of impurity with respect to humans. He then articulates a systematic view of the concept of the removal of impurity in priestly writings. He utilizes comparative material from Mesopotamia and Hittite cultures.

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  • Wright, David P. “The Spectrum of Priestly Impurity.” In Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel. Edited by Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, 150–182. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 125. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1991.

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    Wright examines various types of impurities in priestly literature and the later signification of these impurities in ancient Israelite society. He claims that tolerated as well as prohibited impurities were part of a system that focused on lesser impurities, not for their own sakes but rather as a means for addressing larger moral issues and religious concerns of the society.

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Food Laws

Eating is a special concern of priestly thought and is treated especially in Leviticus 11 and 17. Meshel 2008 is the most detailed and sophisticated analysis available of the food laws in Leviticus 11, and it builds on the classic Moran 1966. Beyond explicating their meaning, Schwartz 1991 shows the literary erudition achieved in the rules concerning blood consumption in Leviticus 17. Wright 1990 explores the rationale for the sometimes arcane priestly food rules.

  • Meshel, Naphtali S. “Food for Thought: Systems of Categorization in Leviticus 11.” Harvard Theological Review 101 (2008): 203–229.

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    Drawing on the theoretical discussion of Lévi-Strauss, Meshel attempts to show that, in the classification of animals in Leviticus 11, the priestly authors’ concern is conceptual, not normative, and that there is a message encoded within it regarding the relation between culture and nature. Meshel’s is the most detailed and sophisticated analysis available of the food laws.

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  • Moran, William L. “The Literary Connections between Lv 11, 13–19 and Dt 14, 12–18.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 28 (1966): 271–277.

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    Moran assesses the relationship between the dietary laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. He argues that the list in Deuteronomy 14 originally included only ten kinds of unclean birds, and that this list was dependent on an earlier form of Leviticus 11.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch. “The Prohibitions Concerning the ‘Eating’ of Blood in Leviticus 17.” In Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel. Edited by Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, 34–66. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 125. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1991.

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    Schwartz claims that, much like poetry, prose, prayers, and prophecies, legal material in the Bible is also a work of art with literary integrity. Through an analysis of Leviticus 17, he shows benefits of such a reading of legal material, including increased attention to legal idiom, the rhetoric of lawgivers (which extends beyond mere legislating), and the composition of the priestly code.

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  • Wright, D. P. “Observations on the Ethical Foundations of the Biblical Dietary Laws: A Response to Jacob Milgrom.” In Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives. Edited by Edwin B. Firmage, Bernard G. Weiss, and John W. Welch, 193–198. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

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    Wright describes how his views on the dietary laws in priestly literature diverge from Milgrom’s perspective. For Milgrom, the priestly dietary laws can be understood with reference to an ethical notion of a respect for life and reverential view of blood as the life force. Wright claims that these dietary laws reflect Israel’s separateness from other nations, maintaining Israel as God’s holy people.

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Priests and Levites

Though Levites hardly appear in Leviticus at all, priests are one of its major concerns and its seeming origin. Moreover, Levites are prominent in priestly thought outside of Leviticus. Gunneweg 1965 and Cody 1969 provide (sometimes contrasting) overviews of the Israelite priesthood, including the priesthood in Pentateuchal priestly texts. Nurmela 1998 takes up the special topic of the Levites and their differentiation from and relation to the priests.

  • Cody, Aelred. A History of Old Testament Priesthood. Analecta Biblica 35. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969.

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    Cody attempts to reconstruct the history of the Israelite priesthood from its origins to the 2nd century BCE. He argues that the earliest Israelite priests were attendants at sanctuaries and that the Levites were once a secular tribe. The Zadokites co-opted the Levitical title in order to subordinate the Levites in the postexilic period.

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  • Gunneweg, A. H. J. Leviten und Priester: Hauptlinen der Traditionsbildung und Geschichte des israelitisch-jüdischen Kultpersonals. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1965.

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    Gunneweg reconstructs the history of the Levites and the priests, using biblical sources and traditions. He claims that the Levites were not originally a secular or priestly tribe but rather a religious order. The objective of this order was the preservation of the Yahwistic amphictyony.

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  • Nurmela, Risto. The Levites: Their Emergence as a Second-Class Priesthood. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998.

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    Nurmela’s starting point is Ezekiel 44:10–16, where the Levites are subordinated to the Zadokite priesthood. Yet Nurmela also examines texts that treat the priesthood across the biblical canon, including Pentateuchal priestly texts. Nurmela argues that the Levites were northern priests forced south at the fall of Samaria and thus achieved only a subordinate position in Judah.

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Holiness

One of the fundamental concerns of priestly literature is holiness. It is conceptualized in P and H as an invisible divine essence that is communicable through physical contact. It is characteristic of and emanates from the deity and must be kept free from impurity. H, in distinction to P, extends the possibility of holiness from priests to lay Israelites and explains how it can be attained. Jenson 1992 emphasizes the different dimensions in which holiness operates. Schwartz 2000 provides a helpful comparison among the conceptions of holiness in the different Torah sources. Wright 1999 emphasizes the differences between P and H with regard to holiness. Milgrom 1981 and Firmage 1990 highlight the impact of notions of holiness on specific rules.

  • Firmage, Edwin B. “The Biblical Dietary Laws and the Concept of Holiness.” In Studies in the Pentateuch. Edited by J. A. Emerton, 177–208. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 41. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1990.

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    Firmage seeks to describe holistically the dietary legislation in Leviticus. First, he critiques Mary Douglas’s thesis that unclean animals and impurity in the dietary laws are founded on a perceived anomaly of the animal. He claims that the distinction between clean and unclean food derives from an analogy between God’s diet and Israel’s diet.

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  • Jenson, Philip Peter. Graded Holiness: A Key to the Priestly Conception of the World. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 106. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1992.

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    Jenson argues that too much has been made of disunity within the priestly source and that a more unitary reading allows one to better understand the spectrum of holiness within P. He examines priestly vocabulary and applies anthropology to P in order to place the function and role of the cult in P in broader consideration.

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  • Milgrom, Jacob. “Sancta Contagion and Altar/City Asylum.” In Congress Volume: Vienna, 1980. Edited by J. A. Emerton, 278–310. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 32. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1981.

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    Milgrom examines terms for contagion with respect to sancta. He considers the effect of the contagion on places of asylum and traces the history of the notion of asylum from altar to city asylum. He argues that D is dependent on P’s innovation that altars cannot transfer holiness to a person, and thus cities can become the place for asylum.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “Israel’s Holiness: The Torah Traditions.” In Purity and Holiness: The Heritage of Leviticus. Edited by M. J. H. M. Poorthuis and J. Schwartz, 47–59. Jewish and Christian Perspectives 2. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    Schwartz shows that the nonpriestly and priestly sources of the Torah understand the holiness of Israel differently. In the nonpriestly traditions, Israel’s holiness is a bestowed status. In the priestly tradition (of P and H, only H discusses Israel’s holiness), Israel’s holiness is related to their proximity to the holy deity and is achieved through obedience to the divine commands.

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  • Wright, David P. “Holiness in Leviticus and Beyond: Differing Perspectives.” Interpretation 53 (1999): 351–364.

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    Wright draws distinctions between P and H on four aspects of holiness: holiness with respect to persons, place, objects, and time. In each section, he shows that H reworks the priestly material, displaying a dependence on P as a prior source. The expansion of material in these areas includes the extension of holiness to all the people of Israel.

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Sabbath and Festivals

In tandem with Numbers 28–29, Leviticus 23 offers a calendar of festivals and ritual observances associated with them. Vaux 1961, though now somewhat dated, still offers an important discussion of the historical and sociological issues related to these festivals. Knohl 1987 attempts to reconstruct the literary history of Leviticus 23 from P to H. Goldstein and Cooper 1990 brings the priestly festival calendar into explicit conversation with other Pentateuchal festival rules. Schwartz 2007 is an insightful discussion of the different views of the Sabbath in the Pentateuchal sources.

  • Goldstein, Bernard R., and Alan Cooper. “The Festivals of Israel and Judah and the Literary History of the Pentateuch.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 110 (1990): 19–31.

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    The authors evaluate the composite nature of the calendar laws in Israelite history. They reconstruct northern (Israelite) and southern (Judahite) calendars separately before proposing a history of redaction and compilation. In their scheme, a northern redactor (RJE) compiled his material before P constructed its calendar as a midrash on the previously compiled northern material.

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  • Knohl, Israel. “The Priestly Torah versus the Holiness School: Sabbath and the Festivals.” Hebrew Union College Annual 58 (1987): 65–117.

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    Knohl compares Leviticus 23 (H) to Numbers 28–29 (P), as well as the Sabbath and festival laws in the two collections. He points out the weaknesses of Wellhausen’s views on P as well as Kaufmann’s assumption of the coherence of P and H.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “The Sabbath in the Torah Sources.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, San Diego, CA, 19 November 2007.

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    Schwartz shows the differences in the Sabbath in the four Torah sources. J’s Sabbath emphasizes Israel’s dependence on YHWH. E’s Sabbath is meant to rejuvenate humans and animals. In D, the Sabbath has a humanitarian purpose and is tied to slavery in Egypt. P’s Sabbath is a work cessation without any positive rest component.

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  • Vaux, Roland de. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. 2 vols. Translated by John McHugh. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961.

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    Vaux offers a comprehensive overview of the major pillars of Israelite society, including family and military institutions. Of importance for studies in Leviticus, he details and synthesizes material related to the cult and sacrifices in ancient Israel. This section on cult and religion occupies roughly half of the work, indicating the importance of the Temple and offerings for the society of ancient Israel.

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Legal Issues

In addition to its focus on the ritual and cult of the divine sanctuary, Leviticus includes many laws that, while remaining tied to a religious context, are primarily ethical in their aim. These include laws on sexuality, agriculture, generosity toward the poor, and slavery. Leviticus also outlines divine inducements for obedience should Israel stray from the laws. More-general studies of biblical law that are relevant for the laws in Leviticus are Westbrook 1985, which addresses the genre of law itself, and Brin 1994, which treats a number of topics in legal composition and priestly law. Houtman 1984, Ziskind 1996, and Wells 2004 treat a range of topics in priestly law, with special emphasis on the rationales that underlie these laws. Ziskind and Wells also emphasize the relation between biblical priestly and nonbiblical ancient Near Eastern thought.

  • Brin, Gershon. Studies in Biblical Law: From the Hebrew Bible to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Translated by Jonathan Chipman. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 176. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1994.

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    This study explores various aspects of biblical law, from the development of double law, legal formulation, and legal topics such as care for the poor and the reception history of legal material in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The second half of the study focuses on the law of the firstborn with respect both to firstborn animals and firstborn humans.

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  • Houtman, C. “Another Look at Forbidden Mixtures.” Vetus Testamentum 34 (1984): 226–228.

    DOI: 10.1163/156853384X00548Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Houtman states that the notion of order within the diversity of creation governs legislation such as Leviticus 19:19 against plowing with an ox and ass. This observation also explains legislation against bestiality, as in Leviticus 18:23, as well as narrative condemnation of mixing between heavenly beings and the daughters of man, in Genesis 6:1–4.

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  • Wells, Bruce. The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 4. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2004.

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    Wells discusses three main issues: (1) the requirement to offer legal testimony, (2) the question of sufficient testimony, and (3) false accusation and concomitant punishment. Wells compares the biblical material with Mesopotamian legal practice. Chapter 3 of the study is a detailed examination of Leviticus 5:1–6, in light of neo-Babylonian court documents.

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  • Westbrook, Raymond. “Biblical and Cuneiform Law Codes.” Revue Biblique 92 (1985): 247–264.

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    By reference to omen texts, Westbrook argues that biblical and cuneiform law codes served a practical function as reference material in difficult cases and were not just a scribal exercise in scientific knowledge (though he acknowledges that they are at least that).

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  • Ziskind, Jonathan R. “The Missing Daughter in Leviticus XVIII.” Vetus Testamentum 46 (1996): 125–130.

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    Ziskind explores the prohibitions against incest, noting that these laws lack mention of a daughter. This omission is striking in light of other laws from the ancient Near East. Ziskind argues that the law in Leviticus neither approves nor disapproves of such incest in order to strike a balance between tradition and the overall family reform of the priestly code.

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Sabbatical Year, Slavery, and Jubilee

The “Holiness” stratum (H) laws on sabbatical, slavery, and Jubilee are interrelated and have been a special focus of study both for their seeming relation to other, topically related biblical texts and their unique ethical and religious conceptions. Amit 1992 and Fager 1993 focus especially on the ethics of Jubilee legislation. Japhet 1986 and van Seters 1996 investigate the relationship between Leviticus 25 and its Pentateuchal intertexts. Jackson 1988 and Weinfeld 1990 focus on the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean backgrounds for these legal topics. Schwartz 1986 treats the slave girl pericope in Leviticus 19, which is relevant for a larger consideration of slavery in H and the Pentateuchal legal collections.

  • Amit, Yairah. “The Jubilee Law: An Attempt at Instituting Social Justice.” In Justice and Righteousness: Biblical Themes and Their Influence. Edited by Henning Reventlow and Yair Hoffman, 47–59. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 137. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1992.

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    An article assessing the role of the Jubilee law in addressing the laxity of enforcement of other legislation such as the laws of the fallow year, redemption, slavery, and loans. It is argued that the law of the Jubilee year was a later formulation, consistent with the late dating of the H stratum, to ideologically combat a real situation of social injustice in ancient Israel.

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  • Fager, Jeffrey A. Land Tenure and the Biblical Jubilee: Uncovering Hebrew Ethics through the Sociology of Knowledge. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 155. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1993.

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    Fager utilizes social science to show how the institution of the Jubilee year created stability in Israelite society. He suggests that the priests used the Jubilee year to recreate stability in a society that lost it, and a study of the competing vision of the Jubilee year in Ezekiel uncovers alternative models of land reform. Fager also discusses ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to this practice.

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  • Jackson, Bernard S. “Biblical Laws of Slavery: A Comparative Approach.” In Slavery and Other Forms of Unfree Labour. Edited by Léonie J. Archer, 86–101. History Workshop. London: Routledge, 1988.

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    Jackson uses a typologically oriented comparative approach, showing similarities between biblical laws regarding slavery and laws from classical sources on the same topic. He analyzes slavery arising from debt versus captive slavery and discusses the difficulty of labeling the different kinds of slavery.

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  • Japhet, Sara. “The Relationship between the Legal Corpora in the Pentateuch in Light of Manumission Laws.” In Studies in Bible, 1986. Edited by Sara Japhet, 63–89. Scripta Hierosolymitana 31. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986.

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    Japhet utilizes the slave-release laws in the legal corpora of the Bible to investigate the literary dependence and chronology of the sources. She contends that the Deuteronomic source (D) is the latest source and is polemical toward Leviticus 25. Thus, according to Japhet, D intends to replace H.

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  • Schwartz, Baruch J. “A Literary Study of the Slave-Girl Pericope: Leviticus 19:20–22.” In Studies in Bible, 1986. Edited by Sara Japhet, 241–255. Scripta Hierosolymitana 31. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986.

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    Schwartz provides a literary reading to the law in Leviticus 19:20–22. In doing so, he shows how the same reading strategies that apply to prose and poetry also yield results in legal material. In this case, a sensitive literary approach to Leviticus 19:20–22 shows how this passage interrelates separate spheres of society (cultic, civil, and sexual) into a cohesive legal statement.

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  • van Seters, John. “The Law of the Hebrew Slave.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 108 (1996): 534–546.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.1996.108.4.534Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Van Seters claims that the case of the Hebrew slave in the Pentateuchal legal material supports his thesis that the Covenant Code is later than Deuteronomy and Leviticus. In doing so, he suggests that the law in Exodus 21:2–6 resembles Nehemiah 5:8, revealing the later status of the law code in Exodus.

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  • Weinfeld, Moshe. “Sabbatical Year and Jubilee in the Pentateuchal Laws and Their Ancient Near Eastern Background.” In The Law in the Bible and in Its Environment. Edited by Timo Veijola, 39–62. Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society 51. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990.

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    Weinfeld discusses the differences between slavery manumission in Jeremiah 34 and the Pentateuchal laws of Sabbath, Jubilee, and manumission. He draws widely on ancient Near Eastern sources from Mesopotamia and Egypt to show how the biblical data are both consistent with and diverge from this background material. Moreover, he also explores this institution of manumission in the time of Nehemiah.

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LAST MODIFIED: 02/06/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0039

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