Time For A New Diet? Allusions To Genesis 1–3 As Rhetorical Device In Leviticus 11 -- By: G. Geoffrey Harper

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 04:2 (Winter 2013)
Article: Time For A New Diet? Allusions To Genesis 1–3 As Rhetorical Device In Leviticus 11
Author: G. Geoffrey Harper


Time For A New Diet?
Allusions To Genesis 1–3 As Rhetorical Device
In Leviticus 11*

G. Geoffrey Harper

Sydney Missionary & Bible College, Australia

* Versions of this paper were presented at the Tyndale Old Testament Study Group and at SBL International in July 2013. I am grateful to those who provided feedback and asked penetrating questions. I trust the final product is sharper as a result of their input.

Introduction

Leviticus 11 with its seemingly archaic dietary prohibitions has both bored casual readers and vexed trained exegetes. The diachronic and historical issues presented by this text are complex; the result has been a history of kaleidoscopic interpretation.1 Yet many recent approaches to the text have been indelibly shaped by a number of questionable assumptions.

The first is simply that chapter 11, along with the rest of the book’s purity regulations, is at best undeniably dull and at worst puerile, even irrelevant.2 While this sentiment may be regularly encountered in the pew, it also appears with surprising frequency within the academy. P, the putative source behind Leviticus 11, has been labelled “stiff,”3 “arid,”4 and “prosaic,”5 labels which have influenced subsequent scholarship.6 The chapter’s genre designation as

‘instruction manual’7 is also unfortunate, because as Kalinda Stevenson notes, “assumptions about genre determine interpretation.”8 An ‘arid,’ ‘prosaic,’ instruction manual hardly invites exploration of theological message and persuasive rhetoric.9

Furthermore, source-, form- and tradition-critical examinations of Leviticus 11 have inevitably emphasised diachronic issues. As a result the text has been mined for clues regarding its compositional history, its underlying oral traditions, and the reconstruction of early Israelite history. Determining the rationale for the dietary prohibitions has dominated discussion of the chapter: How and when did these laws originate? Why these pa...

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