Priests And Levites In Ezekiel: A Crux In The Interpretation Of Israel’s History -- By: J. Gordon McConville

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 34:1 (NA 1983)
Article: Priests And Levites In Ezekiel: A Crux In The Interpretation Of Israel’s History
Author: J. Gordon McConville

Priests And Levites In Ezekiel: A Crux In The Interpretation Of Israel’s History

J. Gordon McConville

The question of the relation between priests and Levites in ancient Israel has long been a fundamental factor in the interpretation of the history of Israel. It was, of course, one if the five pillars upon which J. Wellhausen erected his version of the four-document theory of the composition of the Pentateuch, a theory which placed the so-called Priestly document last of the four, and originating in the exile. That literary theory was also and essentially a historical theory. The Priestly document was exilic. Indeed the comprehensiveness of Wellhausen’s theory, in regard to both the history, and literature of Israel, is well illustrated by the centrality of a chapter of the book of Ezekiel in his argument about the Pentateuch. The belief that Ezekiel 44 pre-dates the Pentateuchal picture of the relation between priests and Levites is perhaps the strongest single factor in the continuing adherence to the view that a priestly document, or redaction of the Pentateuch, arose in the exile. On the face of it, Ezekiel 44 appears to create for the first time the relation of Levites to priests which is instituted in Numbers 3:5ff. Our ultimate concern in the paper is to ask whether that is a correct interpretation of Ezekiel 44.

We must, however, first set our enquiry in a wider context. Within the limitations of this paper it is impossible and unnecessary to attempt an assessment of the vast literature on the subject of the priesthood in Israel’s history.1 But our enquiry, in its

endeavour to re-assess the significance of Ezekiel 44 in relation to the wider question of the priests and Levites, does have a historical dimension as well as a literary one. In the first part of the paper I shall address what I believe to be a major fallacy in the commonly accepted view of the historical development of the priesthood. And in the second part we shall turn to an interpretation of the statements regarding the clergy in Ezekiel 44 itself.

I. The Priesthood In Israel’s History

Three texts have dominated discussion of the history of the priesthood for the last hundred years, and the generally accepted interpretation of them - especially as they relate to one another - has not substantially altered in that time. The texts are You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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