Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 >> Lemurs to Lied Von Der Glocke >> Leviticus_P1

Leviticus

laws, law, book, holiness, code, offerings, chapters and priests

Page: 1 2

LEVITICUS, Book of. Leviticus is the third book in the Old Testament. Its Hebrew name is Wayy4ra, "And he called;' after the opening word of the book. The designation Leviticus, which means that is, "the Levitical System"— the Levitical system is found chiefly in this book — originated with the early Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint and is meant to be de scriptive of the contents. The Talmud suggests an even more appropriate title, namely, "Law of the Priests?' Contents.-- Leviticus contains few passages cast in narrative form; and in these few cases the narrative is introduced not so much for the purpose of describing the past as for the pur pose of enforcing some provision for the fu ture. The book is almost entirely a collection of laws, chiefly priestly or ceremonial in nature, that is, laws dealing with the functions and privileges of the priests and Levites; hence, the name Leviticus. The first group of laws (i, 1-vii, 38) deals with sacrifices and offerings — burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin of ferings and guilt offerings—and with the priestly functions in connection with these sac rifices. These laws are followed by accounts of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests and of the sin of Nadab and Abihu. and by further regulations concerning priestly du ties and portions (viii, 1-x, 20). Five chap ters (xi-xv) are devoted to laws dealing with matters of cleanness and uncleanness. The day of the atonement is the subject of chapter xvi; chapters xvii-xxvi contain the so-called Law of Holiness (see further, section 4). Chapter xxvii is in the nature of an appendix, contain ing laws concerning vows, things devoted and tithes.

Other books of the Penta teuch contain material taken from at least three originally separate sources, commonly desig nated by the letters J, E and P; in Deuteronomy appears a fourth source known as D. (For de tails see article PENTATEUCH). The whole of Leviticus is derived from P ; but chapters xvii xxvi, with the exception of some later inter polations found chiefly in chapters xxiii and xxv, formed originally a separate code of laws, which is designated "Law of Holiness" by mod ern scholars. (For a characterization of P see article PENTATEUCH, and the relevant sections in Eiselen, F. C.,

Student's Old Testament'— for the material embodied in Leviticus consult especially the vol ume entitled

The Law of Chapters xvii xxvi constitute perhaps the most significant sec tion of the book of Leviticus. Peculiarities of form, contents and expression have convinced modern scholars that these chapters existed at one time as an independent code. (It is not impossible that originally the code was more extensive than it is now. Some of its laws may have been omitted by the redactor who made it a part of P; others may have been trans ferred to other parts of the Pentateuch, for example, the food laws in Lev. xi and the law concerning fringes in Num. xv, 37-41). The designation "Law of Holiness° (H, the first letter of Holiness, as also.of the corresponding German word ufleiligkeit,° is used as a con venient symbol), first suggested by Kloster man in 1877, finds justification in the fact that the central theme of the whole code is holiness, both moral and ceremonial. Its motto is, "Be ye holy, for I, Yahweh, am holy" (xix, 2; compare also xxii, 31-33).

As in the case of the Book of the Cove nant (see article Exontrs), attempts have been made to subdivide the Law of Holiness into a series •of decalogues (consult L. B. Paton, Journal of Biblical Literature, 1897, pp. 31-37), but such a theory necessitates a more or less radical rearrangement of the contents, which would find its only justification in the demands of the theory. The code deals with a variety of topics; it is worthy of note, however, that it lays much less stress upon civil and criminal than upon moral and ceremonial requirements. The more important subjects covered are the slaughter of animals and sacrifice (17) ; un chastity and Moloch worship (18) ; the religious and moral behavior of the Israelites (19) ; penalties for Moloch worship, unlawful mar riage and other offenses (20) ; regulations touching priests and offerings (21, 22) ; sacred seasons (23) ; the lights of the sanctuary, the showbread, the blasphemer and his punishment (24) ; the Sabbatic year and the year of Jubilee (25). The code closes with a hortatory ad dress, emphasizing the fundamental duty of loyalty to Yahweh (26).

Page: 1 2