Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GTJ 1:1 (Spr 1980) p. 101
The Book of Leviticus, by G. J. Wenham. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979. Pp. xiii + 362. $9.95.
The publication of any commentary on Leviticus is an event in OT studies and is gratefully received by those interested in that field. This volume is unique in that it is the first major commentary by a conservative on this book since the days of Keil and Delitzsch. For this reason, we are doubly grateful both to the author and the publisher for the present volume. Wenham states that “Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue. In the modern church, it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously.” Perhaps this volume will help to redress that imbalance.
The format of the book is largely controlled by three topical goals. First, Wenham desires to integrate pertinent material from the Ancient Near East into the explanation of the book (both as a whole and as a part). Second, he attempts to utilize (whenever usable) the work of modern social anthropologists. Third, he makes substantial use of literary criticism (not to be confused with source criticism). The simple reading of these comments might mislead the reader concerning the real character of the book, however. Its real emphasis may be discerned by noting his attitude to source and historical criticism: “Detailed discussion of these issues has been deliberately eschewed in this commentary. It seemed more important to establish the plain meaning of the text and its theological message than to pursue conjectures about how the book was written.” This emphasis is reflected on every page of the book and probably explains why he is noncommittal on Mosaic authorship (p. 13). It is the meaning he regards as important, not by whom/when it might have been written.
The introduction (pp. 1-36) includes the usual subjects, but the majority of the space is devoted to the discussion of four theological cruxes: the presence of God, holiness, the role of sacrifice, and the Sinai Covenant. These are skilfully treated, although the approach is unfortunate for someone in a hurry. For example, this is certainly the best presentation of sacrifice now in print. Yet, the only way to grasp the issues which the book handles is to read the entire book, since the introductory section on Sacrifice is incomplete. This is, of course, probably unavoidable if the form of a commentary is to be maintained. Still, I would have liked to have seen much greater space given to articulating the theology of sacrifice in the introduction.
The text itself is characterized by a consistent methodology. Each section of Leviticus is discussed by first considering the structure of the section. In
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