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Holiness, Ethics and Ritual in Leviticus
Leigh M. Trevaskis

In this book, Trevaskis argues that holiness in Leviticus always has an ethical dimension, and is not simply a cultic category. In so doing he departs from the usual view that in Leviticus 1–16 (P) holiness is largely a cultic concept.
Biblical scholars have commonly read ritual texts as practical instruction or prescription, inferring the theological significance of the rituals from elsewhere. For example, theological interpretations of the ‘burnt offering’ have been derived from its use in narrative settings (e.g. Gen. 8:20; 22:13) rather than from its legal prescription in Leviticus 1.

Trevaskis, however, argues that an implicit command to be holy exists within some ritual texts in Leviticus, which are more than mere ritual prescriptions. It is in the symbolic dimensions of the rituals that the theological significance lies. In support of this argument, he undertakes exegetical studies of the ‘burnt offering’ (Leviticus 1), of the ‘purity regulations’ (Leviticus 11–15) and of the physical appearance of priests and sacrificial animals (Leviticus 21–22). These studies take place within a methodological framework that avoids capricious symbolic interpretations. Trevaskis draws on cognitive linguistic insights to discern when a text may allude to other texts within the Pentateuch (especially Genesis 1–3), and attends to the legislator’s use of various rhetorical devices (e.g. ‘rhetorical progression’).

Since the command to ‘be holy’ in Leviticus 17–26 (H) only makes explicit what P leaves implicit in Leviticus 1–16, this study has important implications for the compositional history of Leviticus. It becomes much less clear that H’s ethical view of holiness developed from a prophetic critique of P (as Milgrom and Knohl, for example, argue).

Leigh M. Trevaskis is Director of the Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society, Emmanuel College, University of Queensland.

Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 29
978-1-906055-98-1 hardback
Publication February 2011

1 Introduction
2 Methodology
3 Leviticus 11.43-45: An Invitation to Explore P’s ‘Dietary Prescriptions’ as
Motivational for Holiness
4 Mortal ‘Flesh’ as Symbolic Source of ‘Uncleanness’ in Leviticus 12–15
5 ‘A Male without Defect’: tamim as an Aspect of qodesh in the ‘Burnt Offering’
of Leviticus 1
6 The Use of tamim to Denote an Aspect of ‘Holiness’ (qodesh) when Applied
to Animals in H
7 Conclusion

This is an important contribution to the diachronical and synchronical reading of Leviticus.— Eckart Otto.

[A]n important and interesting discussion of Old Testament ritual. It will doubtless become a standard text that everyone working in this area will have to consult and interact with.—Gordon Wenham

In this work Trevaskis has dealt with the Book of Leviticus in an impressive way. His research adds valuable material to the scholarly debate about intriguing passages such as Leviticus 11. For everyone who studies Leviticus at an academic level this work is a ‘must’. Hetty Lalleman, Evangelical Quarterly./