Equilibrium and the Sacred Compass: The Structure of Leviticus -- By: John H. Walton

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 11:2 (NA 2001)
Article: Equilibrium and the Sacred Compass: The Structure of Leviticus
Author: John H. Walton

Equilibrium and the Sacred Compass: The Structure of Leviticus

John H. Walton

Wheaton College

Despite the highly organized features of Leviticus, interpreters have found it difficult to identify a cohesive structure to the book. One possible explanation may be that we have been deterred by presuppositions. We have generally seen the sacrificial system in terms of providing a means to care for the sin and impurity of the people. An alternative approach, however, focuses on the need to preserve and maintain sacred space. This paper builds on this concept and explores the ways that such an adjustment in our thinking suggests a new understanding of the structure and focus of Leviticus.

Key Words: Leviticus, sacred space, sacred compass, sacrifice

Extensive reading in the literature on Leviticus is not necessary to arrive at the conclusion that there is a high degree of confusion about the structure of the book. Non-evangelical scholars tend to be much more interested in P and H as individual sources and offer little attention to the canonical structure of the book. E. Gerstenberger’s comments are typical:

According to contemporary literary understanding, Leviticus is not a “book” at all, but rather a fairly artificial excerpt from a larger narrative and legislative work, sewn together like a patchwork quilt from many different, individual pieces.1

Jacob Milgrom’s magisterial commentary is mostly concerned with the integration of sources H and P, but he does also deal briefly with the book as a unified whole.2 He adopts with some adjustment the ring structure proposed by Mary Douglas that posits chap. 19

as the center turning point.3 This structure continues by matching chaps. 18//20; 11-16//21-23; the two narratives, 10:1-4//24:10-23; 1-9//25; 26 is seen as the logical ending; and 27 as an appendix to lock with 1-9, thereby closing the ring structure.

Canonical and literary approaches shed little additional light. Given the above paragraph, one might be mildly surprised to read Childs’s remark that “there is wide agreement regarding the structure of the book of Leviticus,”4 until one discovers that by this he means that the content can be divided into five sections. Rendtorff can say only that “Evidently [the sections] have been brought together here with the intention of depicting the whole of cultic legislation as having been given to Moses.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe

visitor : : uid: ()