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LEVITICUS (lĕ-vĭt'ĭ-kŭs, Gr. Levitikon, relating to the Levites). The designation in the English Bible of the third book of the Pentateuch, derived from the Latin rendering (Liber Leviticus) of the Greek title Levitikon. The Hebrew title merely consists of the first word of the text (wayyiqrā’), “and he called.” The book is closely associated with Exodus and Numbers in historical continuity, but differs from them in that the purely historical element is subordinate to legal and ritual considerations. Although the emphasis in Leviticus is more on priests than on Levites, the English title is not inappropriate, since the Jewish priesthood was essentially Levitical (cf. Heb.7.11).

Leviticus enshrines the laws by which the religious and civil organization of the primitive theocracy in Canaan was to be regulated. At Sinai the Israelites had been incorporated into a special relationship with God, had been given the covenant laws, and had been provided with a tabernacle for worship. Leviticus contains much that is technical in nature and meant for the direction of the priesthood in the conduct of worship and the regulating of social life. Thus it is distinct from Deuteronomy, which is in effect a popular exposition of Levitical law.

The composition of the book was universally ascribed by ancient tradition, both Jewish and Gentile, to Moses the lawgiver of Israel. During the Middle Ages a number of writers denied certain aspects of Mosaic authorship to the Pentateuch, but it was only during the eighteenth century that literary criticism seriously challenged the traditional view. The movement grew in the following century and reached its classic formulation under Wellhausen in 1887. Using a background of Hegelian evolutionary philosophy, he reconstructed Israelite history, and on the basis of a documentary hypothesis for Pentateuchal origins he assigned Leviticus to a postexilic date along with other elements of the so-called priestly code.

This view has been widely espoused by liberal scholars, and in its developed forms holds that Leviticus was compiled by temple priests between 500 and 450 b.c., using earlier legislation such as the “holiness code” (Lev.17.1-Lev.17.16-Lev.26.1-Lev.26.46), which is regarded as dating from about 650. Most critical writers, however, concede that Leviticus contains much older material, such as the Azazel or scapegoat ritual in Lev.16.1-Lev.16.34 and traditional historical narratives including the punishment of Aaron’s sons (Lev.10.1-Lev.10.7) and the stoning of the blasphemer (Lev.24.10-Lev.24.14).

The literary criteria used in assigning a late date to the bulk of Leviticus have been criticized continuously since the time of Wellhausen, and the number of scholars who find them very difficult to sustain is increasing gradually. This arises in part from a wider knowledge of the media of communication in antiquity and also from historical and archaeological considerations. It is now known that if the techniques of compilation alleged by Wellhausen had actually been employed in the composition of Leviticus and the rest of the Pentateuch, it would have been unique in the literary annals of the ancient Near East. Archaeological discoveries have shown that in actual fact the Hebrews used much the same literary methods as their neighbors, and that significant areas of biblical literature are closely related in language and style to other writings of that day.

The historical evidence furnished by the canon of the Samaritan Pentateuch indicates a date for Leviticus much in advance of that suggested by critical scholars. According to 2Kgs.17.24-2Kgs.17.28, organized Samaritan worship began in the time of Esarhaddon (c. 681-669 b.c.). Since the Samaritans used only the Pentateuch as their basis for doctrine and worship, it is reasonable to assume that it was in its final form by about the eighth century b.c. Archaeological discoveries in the Dead Sea caves uncovered a fragment of Leviticus written in the Phoenician script current in the seventh century b.c. If this is a genuine product of that period, it alone will compel careful reexamination of the entire Wellhausen theory. Other fragments of Leviticus dated c. 100 were also found in the caves and appeared to have come from a Samaritan manuscript.

Analysis: The first seven chapters of Leviticus give the detailed sacrificial procedures showing how the various kinds of burnt offerings, the meal offering, the sin and guilt offerings, and other sacrifices avail for the removal of sin and defilement under the covenant. A subsequent liturgical section (2Kgs.8.1-2Kgs.10.20) describes the consecration of Aaron and the priesthood, followed by the designation of clean and unclean beasts and certain rules of hygiene (2Kgs.11.1-2Kgs.15.33). The ritual of the Day of Atonement occurs in 2Kgs.16.1-2Kgs.16.20, followed by a section (2Kgs.17.1-20:27) treating sacrificial blood, ethical laws, and penalties for transgressors. The theme of 21:1-24:23 is priestly holiness and the consecration of seasons, while the following chapter deals with the legislation surrounding the sabbatical and jubilee years. A concluding chapter outlines promises and threats (26:1-46), and an appendix (27:1-2Kgs.17.34) covers vows. Man as sinner, substitutionary atonement, and divine holiness are prominent throughout Leviticus.

Bibliography: J. L. Mays, The Book of Leviticus, The Book of Numbers (LBC), 1963; Martin Noth, Leviticus: A Commentary, 1977; G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NIC), 1979.——RKH

LEVITICUS lĭ vĭt’ ə kəs. The third book of the Bible. Its Heb. title is the first word, wăyyĭqrá', “and he called.” The Eng. title is derived from the Vul., an adjective meaning “The Levitical” which in turn is derived from the title prefixed to the LXX, Leueitikon or Leuikon, an adjective qualifying Biblion, despite the fact that the book nowhere refers to the special functions of the Levites. The designation given to it in the Mishnah, “priests’ law,” “priests’ book,” “law of offerings,” in the Talmud, “Law of the priests,” and in the Pesh., “the book of the priests,” better indicate its scope. But a study of the addressees shows that many of its regulations are addressed to the congregation of Israel as well as to Moses and Aaron.


The unity

Whether one is a literary critic, who regards the book as essentially the product of the so-called “priestly” writer, or a form critic or a tradition critic, both of whom see numerous sources in the code, all three schools of thought recognize Leviticus 17-26 as a separate law code entitled “Holiness Code” (H) by A. Klostermann in 1877 (cf. his later work, Der Pentateuch: Beiträge zu seinem Verständnis und seiner Entstehungsgeschichte [1893], 368ff.).

Arguments for recognition of H.

Arguments against the recognition of H.

These arguments are readily refuted and others can be advanced demonstrating that chs. 17-26 are part and parcel with the rest of the legislation attributed to Moses in this book. First, the introductory formula in 17:1 is similar to others found in the book (passim) and appears to be a stereotyped way of introducing a fresh element in the revelation. In fact, this argument is so weak that C. A. Simpson ignored the issue when he suggested for reasons of his own that ch. 17 may have come from another source than chs. 18ff. (HBD rev., 581).

Second, the concluding statement in 26:46 might be referred better to the whole book than arbitrarily limited to these chs. This suggestion is confirmed by noting that the curses and blessings formulae in ch. 26 more properly belong to the entire covenant enacted on Sinai. Korošec and Mendenhall demonstrated that the Sinaitic covenant is similar in its form to the Hitt. international treaties. In this connection they noted that these covenants typically include the curses and blessings formulae (G. E. Mendenhall, “Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition,” BA, XVII [1954], 50-76). By viewing Exodus 19-Leviticus 26 as a unity all six elements typically found in these Hitt. treaties are present in the Sinaitic covenant. By denying this unity one is left with the anomaly that some of these elements are present in one code and others are present in later codes. Thus Mendenhall conceded that the last three out of the six elements are lacking in the Decalogue. Moreover, by separating chs. 17-26 the critic produces the anomaly that the blessings and curses are now found in a code that is much later and lacks the other unifying elements. By accepting the Biblical claim, on the other hand, one possesses an integer similar in structure to these Hitt. covenants.

Third, there is no valid reason why the scope of legislation should not be expanded from legislation governing the cult to other rules regulating the social, moral and religious life of the people in whose midst Yahweh reigned.

Fourth, the change to sermonic style in chs. 18-20 is appropriate to the subject matter. In these chs. Yahweh prohibits the Israelites from conforming to the corrupting practices of their pagan neighbors. Because of the temptation to conform to their degraded practices Moses is not content simply to explain what the laws of God are, but he earnestly enjoins them upon the conscience of the people, and urges them to take with utmost seriousness God’s call to a holy life. In a word, the change in subject matter readily accounts for the change in style and vocabulary.

Fifth, regarding the connection with Ezekiel G. Henton Davies admitted that “it cannot be shown with certainty that H preceded Ezekiel or vice versa” (IDB, III, 119f.). Assuming that Leviticus 17-26 preceded Ezekiel, why should it be surprising that Ezekiel reflects this material foundational for the theocratic state?

Authorship and date

The question of the author and date of Leviticus is bound up with two prior considerations: (1) the attitude of the scholar to the nature of Holy Scriptures, and (2) the method employed by those with a “low view” of inspiration in deciding these issues. Because of these differences four distinct views can be presented.

The view of the literary critic.

The dominating view is that Leviticus is part of P (the Priestly Code). This opinion on the date and origin of P since the days of Wellhausen was well expressed by R. H. Pfeiffer: “The Priestly Code is a fifth century midrash, or historical commentary, on the embryonic Pentateuch (JED), including a series of narratives often illustrating legal precedents, and a codification of ritual laws based on earlier codes” (Introduction to the Old Testament [1948], 88). The conclusion that P was later than the other strands is ultimately based on a wish to view the history of OT religion and lit. in terms of the evolutionary philosophies of the age. For example, Wellhausen laid down the principle that the sense of sin in Israelite sacrifice was a decidedly late development (Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel [1957], 81). His understanding was refuted by R. J. Thompson, Penitence and Sacrifice in Early Israel Outside Levitical Law (1963). Moreover, according to Wellhausen legal codes must be regarded as a late phenomenon in Israel’s history of religion. This view has been discredited by the discovery of several ancient collections of laws since the recovery of Hammurabi’s stele in 1901-1902. (For Ur-Nammu laws, cf. S. N. Kramer and A. Falkenstein, Orientalia, XXIII [1954], 40-48; for those of Lipit-Ishtar, from Eshnunna, of Hammurabi, the Middle Assyrian and Hittite laws, see the translations with bibliographies in ANET, 159-198.) Significantly, the most striking parallels between the so-called P laws and these laws are found in the so-called H (cf. SOTI, 230).

The view of the form critic.

According to the form critic the book has come into existence in successive stages. For M. Noth only chs. 8-10 can be judged as primary and belonging to P. The remaining content of the book for him did not belong to the original or expanded P narrative. He said: “There are such striking departures in numerous details from P’s account, especially with regard to the cultic personnel, and such notable differences in language, that one is led to this conclusion: the non-narrative parts of the book have been fitted into the narrative framework as a later addition and have their own independent history” (Leviticus [1965], 13). According to these critics the cultic and ritual regulations must ultimately be traced back to an oral stage. To quote Noth: “At the back of such compositions there lies most probably a form that was oral, handing on the relevant rules from one generation to another; and in the course of this oral ‘tradition’ new material must certainly have been added to the old” (Noth, 15). Even when fixed in writing, there was always the possibility of expansion and fresh additions. For these men dates must be approximate and the final form contains both ancient and more ancient material. It is as important for them to fix the place of origin as it is to fix the date.

Having settled upon the history of these units of laws, these critics then seek to identify the combinations of laws of like character or similar theme into larger collections.

This method is highly subjective and undisciplined. Significantly, after attempting to trace the history of the collections in Leviticus G. Henton Davies admitted: “But the arguments which prompt such divisions may be countered by other considerations, and this suggests that the precise analysis of these laws into intermediary sections is unwise” (IDB, III, 117). Moreover, the theory of oral tradition is contradictory to observed scribal practices in the ancient Near E. The religious rituals and incantations from the third millennium b.c. texts in the pyramids of Unis, Teti, and Pepi (fifth to sixth dynasties) at Saqqarah as well as the Sumer. religious texts, divine hymns, and mythological texts from Ur, Nippur, and elsewhere point to a custom of preserving at an early stage those sources of information or procedure that were of importance to a particular profession (cf. R. Harrison, Introduction to the OT [1969], 592).

The view of the tradition critic.

Ivan Engnell in his introduction to the OT (Gamla Testamentet, I [1945]), and in his articles in Svenskt Bibliskt Uppslagsverk did not regard “P” as the youngest of the “sources” of the Pentateuch, but as a complete work consisting of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. This work is the product of the “P-circle.” In spite of the ancient traditions contained in P, Engnell found it necessary to date the work of the P-circle rather late, i.e. in the exilic or postexilic period, possible even in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

But A. Kapelrud, who also recognized only a “P-circle” and a “D-circle,” contradicted Engnell by concluding that the work of the P-circle must have been completed before 550 b.c. He reasoned that so-called Second Isaiah used the work (particularly Gen 1, 2) in such a way that the prophet not only knew these chs. as we have them in MT, but he also supposed that his audience knew the passages. He concluded: “That must mean that P had got its final form not later than 550 b.c.” (“The Date of the Priestly Code,” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute [1964], 58-64). The only reason he advanced for dating it not earlier than 550 b.c. was that it could not be demonstrated to his satisfaction that Jeremiah and Ezekiel explicitly quote the P work. But although it can not be demonstrated that Jeremiah and Ezekiel explicitly quote this portion of the Pentateuch, surely this negative evidence does not lead necessarily to the conclusion that it was nonexistent in their times.

The view of the faithful.

The Holy Spirit has convinced the faithful that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and Christ and that the Scriptures He revered are the Word of God. His faith rests on the Spirit’s convincing work; he rejoices in all truth; and he recognizes error by its inconsistency with Scripture.

Although the author of Leviticus is not named, a comparison of Exodus 40:1, 17 with Numbers 1:1 suggests that these laws belong to the first month of the second year after the Exodus. Moreover, the context for these laws is clearly the revelation given by Yahweh to Moses at Sinai. Thirty-eight times it is stated that Yahweh spoke to Moses at Sinai. However, the statement in 16:1 that the law for the Day of Atonement was given after the death of Nadab and Abihu recounted in ch. 10 shows that the material is not arranged chronologically but logically (cf. J. S. Wright, “Thoughts on Composition of the Pentateuch,” EQ, XXV [1953], 14). Although a later writer may have set this Mosaic material into its present order, there is no reason for thinking that Moses himself did not arrange the laws. If this historical setting for all the laws and narratives is the creation of a later writer’s imagination as the critics imply, one cannot escape the implication that he was immoral, using deceitful means to accomplish a righteous end. The work is morally tarnished according to their views and should be renounced as such.

The evidence suggests that their implied allegation is false. To this writer’s knowledge there is no hard evidence dictating either that the book is late or that these laws did not come to Moses, the founder of the theocratic state. On the contrary, much evidence supports the claim of Scripture.

It will do little good to point out isolated details in these laws that show their early origin because the form critic and the tradition critic can fit these details into their theories. But if one examines the book as a whole against a Late Bronze environment one finds that almost every major section of the book has analogues in the ancient Near Eastern lit. from this time and earlier.

Thus the sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus 1-7 have their analogies in Ugarit; e.g., an offering analogous to the minḥah, “the cereal gift” (Lev 2:1) was mentioned in a sacrificial tariff from Ugarit (Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, I, 145); a propitiatory peace offering appears to have been known there also (D. M. L. Urie, “Sacrifice Among the West Semites,” PEQ, LXXXI [1949], 75ff.). Votive and tributary offerings were familiar throughout the ancient Near E (cf. T. H. Gaster, IDB, IV, 148ff.). On the other hand, one should caution that the sacrificial system found in the Ugaritic texts lacks convincing correspondence with the Mosaic system (cf. A. De-Guglielmo, “Sacrifice in the Ugaritic Texts,” CBQ, XVII [1955], 196); N. C. Habel said: “At this point it ought to be mentioned that the precise nature of the sacrificial system and cultic rituals at Ugarit is far from clear” (Yahweh Versus Baal [1964], 79).

Even more compelling is the priestly nature of the material. In antiquity all forms of education were under the supervision of the priesthood, a tradition that was established by the Sumerians (J. Kaster, IDB, II, 27ff.). In this connection it is important to recall that this professional lit. was put into writing at an early date.

In addition, highly organized medical material of various kinds are known both in Babylonia and Egypt from at least the second millennium b.c. onward. On this basis Harrison concluded: “There is no a priori reason why the hygienic code of Leviticus [cf. chs. 11-15] cannot be confidently credited to its attributive author....There is no specific element in the prescriptions that requires a date later than the end of the Amarna period” (Harrison, 594).

Also, it is important to recall that the legal codes with striking parallels to material in so-called H are found in writing from a time before Moses.

Furthermore, with regard to the firstfruits in Leviticus 23:9-14 note that similar offerings have been attested from Mesopotamian, Hittite, South Arabic, and Aegean sources (Harrison, 601).

Finally, recall that the curses and blessings formulae of ch. 26 find their parallel in ancient Hitt. treaties.

Taking all this material into account one gains the impression that the content of Leviticus is very old. In short, in contrast to the speculative theories of the critics, the hard facts support the Scriptural claim for the book from its beginning to its end, throughout each of its major divisions.



Selected studies

The laws governing the sacrifices in chs. 1-7

The motive behind the “[whole] burnt offering” (v. 3) is exhibited in the clause “when any man of you brings an offering to the Lord [or gift (cf. v. 10)]” (v. 2). The gift consisted of an animal and served to secure to the offerer the good pleasure of Yahweh (v. 3). The expression “that he may be accepted” is never used in connection with the sin offering, whose peculiar function was to obtain the pardon, rather than the gracious favor of Yahweh. Accordingly, like the other two “sweet savor” offerings, it was voluntary. An example of its use is seen when the king offers up a burnt offering before going to battle (1 Sam 7:9; 13:9; Ps 20).

The cereal offering (ch. 2).

The motive behind this sacrifice is identical with the first as seen in the clause: “when a soul wishes to bring near a cereal gift” (2:1). The wording is almost identical with 1:2 except the gift is qualified by minḥah, “cereal, grain gift.” Elsewhere this word is used for both bloody and non-bloody offerings (cf. Gen 4:3, 4) but under the law it is restricted to the bloodless offering. Again, the motive is not prompted through a divine demand but through an instinctive desire to commune with God. Eichrodt said: “Just as an inferior brings a present to his superior, or a client to his patron, or a vassal to his lord, as the normal expression of his subjection and fealty, so the pious worshiper makes an offering to God. Naturally, only something valuable, the surrender of which involves an act of renunciation on the part of the giver, is suitable for such an offering. Hence food—and that only at its best—accords admirably with this idea of a gift, because it is essential to life” (Theology of the Old Testament, I [1961], 144).

The peace offering (ch. 3).

Chapter 3:1 should be rendered: “If his gift is a sacrifice of well-being.” The word “sacrifice” (zebaḥ) denotes the concept of sacral communion. According to 7:12 and 7:16 the sacrifice was offered for “thanksgiving” or as “a votive offering” or “a freewill offering.” The word tr. “thanksgiving” (tōdəh) would be rendered better by “acknowledgement” (cf. C. Westermann, The Praise of God in the Psalms [1965], 25-30). Eichrodt concluded: “The toda springs spontaneously from man’s need to give public and material expression to his gratitude for some deliverance or marvelous benefit” (Eichrodt, 147). The vow (neder) springs from the spontaneous conviction that it is right to give a gift only to one’s benefactor. “A real element in the vow,” said Eichrodt, “is the spontaneous conviction that God’s gifts require from men not merely words, but deeds of gratitude, and that for a person praying to make his readiness for such an act explicit is to express a right attitude of mind and to show a real awareness of God’s graciousness in answering his prayer” (Eichrodt, 145). The “freewill offering” (nedabah) expresses one’s homage. Eichrodt commented: “The nedaba is an example of a free act of homage, which views man’s humble recognition of and submission to his divine Lord, and was a common practice on the occasion of the regular visits to the sanctuary at the time of the great annual festivals (Exod 23:15; 34:20)” (Eichrodt, 145). Thus the basic motive prompting this sacrifice is that of appreciation.

The sin offering (ch. 4).

The sin offering (haṭṭa’t) offered in connection with the inadvertent transgression of some commandment (4:2; Num 15:22ff.; contrast Num 15:30ff.; cf. Ezek 45:20), designates the sacrifice that made atonement; i.e. paid the price to appease the wrath of God (see below). Throughout the ritual the ransom price demanded was blood.

The guilt offering (ch. 5).

The guilt offering made compensation for the damage done through sin. Eichrodt said: “A breach of trust between human beings involved the payment of compensation. The same obligation toward God was expressed in the guilt offering or the sacrifice of reparation (’ašam). Moreover, the proper legal compensation had to be made either directly to the injured fellowcitizen, or to the sanctuary at the same time as the sacrifice...” (Eichrodt, 161).

The laws of purification (chs. 11-15)

The categorizing of animal species into clean and unclean (ch. 11) is unique in the annals of Near Eastern lit. in its avoidance of magical considerations. R. K. Harrison wrote: “The system of therapeutics and preventive medicine...was grounded upon an empirical basis, in marked contrast to the contemporary peoples, who were dominated by a priori magical considerations and as a result tended invariably to spiritualize pathological phenomena in terms of the activity of demons” (Harrison, 603). The foods classified as clean are known to be beneficial in contrast to the unclean known to be noxious. These dietary regulations issue from Yahweh’s design for His people. The word “abomination” (sheqeṩ) (v. 10, passim) is a technical word designating that which is culticly unacceptable (cf. Dan 9:27) in contrast to the much more frequent term “abomination” (tô'ēbáh) which designates that which is repugnant to one’s sensibilities.

R. G. Cochrane, an authority on Hansen’s disease, as modern medical practitioners prefer to designate leprosy, argued convincingly that the disease diagnosed in Leviticus 13 and 14 is not exactly the same as Hansen’s disease (“Biblical Leprosy,” The Star, Carville, Louisiana, n.d.).

Regarding the description of diagnostic techniques and quarantine regulations derived from clinical procedure recorded in ch. 13, Harrison said: “The Hebrew of chapter 13 is technical, suited to a professional textbook for the priest-physician. The language is like that of the Egyptian medical texts, and it is obscure to the modern Biblical student as most advanced texts are to beginners in other fields of knowledge” (Harrison, 608).

The Day of Atonement (ch. 16).

A crucial word in Leviticus as a whole and foremost in ch. 16 is kipper, “to make atonement.” Some scholars define its original meaning as “to wipe away,” “to expiate” on the basis of the Babylonian and Assyrian parallels (J. Milgrom, “Prolegomenon to Leviticus 17:11,” JBL, XC [1971], 151). Others define its meaning as “to cover” on the basis of its Arabic parallel (BDB, 497). L. Morris has demonstrated on the basis of usage that it means “to pay a ransom price.” In its non-cultic use he concluded kipper means “to avert a ransom....Thus extra-cultic kipper denotes a substitutionary process....In each case the essence of the transaction is the provision of an acceptable substitute” (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross [1965], 166). He found the same nuance in its cultic use: “...the verb kipper carries with it the implication of a turning away of the divine wrath by an appropriate offering. This meaning accords well with the general usage of ἐξιλάσκομαι, and it seems clear that the verb is used so often to tr. kipper precisely for this reason” (L. Morris, 170). He also noted that the atonement paid is always out of proportion to the price paid: “There is always an element of grace” (L. Morris, 167).

The law governing blood (ch. 17).

The significance of “blood” in the scriptural sacrifices has been understood in two ways. Some argue that by “the blood” life is meant rather than death so that the essential element in sacrifice is the presenting of life. Accepting this understanding G. Henton Davies said: “The blood is the life, and sacrifice is surrendered life, and so involves surrendered time, surrendered property, and surrendered self (laying on of hands)” (IDB, III, 120). This interpretation is based on the narrow base of Leviticus 17:11. But L. Morris demonstrated through an exhaustive word study that “blood” in Scripture denotes death. He properly rejected the above interpretation and concluded: “dam [blood] in the Old Testament signifies life violently taken rather than the continual presence of life available for some new function, in short, death rather than life, and that this is supported by the references to atonement” (L. Morris, 121). He argued that nephesh, “life” (Lev 17:11), more prob. means “life yielded up in death.”


The Qumran fragment of Leviticus in paleo-Heb. script dated by S. Birnbaum to the 5th cent. b.c., and to the Maccabean era by F. M. Cross, Jr. (The Ancient Library of Qumran [1961], 34) demonstrated the fidelity of the MT in Leviticus by its agreement with the traditional text.

Relationship to the NT

The apostles saw much in Leviticus as a type, a divinely inspired picture, of their doctrines; e.g., the priests and sacrifices connected with the Tabernacle shadowed the work of Christ in connection with heaven (cf. Heb 3:1; 4:14-16; chs. 9, 10); the presence of God in Israel (Lev 26:12) prefigured the templehood of Christian believers (2 Cor 6:16).

The apostles also insisted that these enactments were not binding on the Church but had been superseded in Christ and through the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 9:9-16; 15:1-21; Gal 2:11-3:5; 1 Tim 4:1-5; Heb 9:10).


In addition to the classics on the Pentateuch see W. Kornfeld, Studien zum Heiligkeitgesetz (1952) for an extensive bibliography up-to-date at the time of writing. L. Urie, “Sacrifice Among the West Semites,” PEQ, LXXXI (1949), 67-82; J. S. Wright, “Thoughts on Composition of the Pentateuch,” EQ, XXV (1953), 2-17; A. DeGuglielmo, “Sacrifice in the Ugaritic Texts,” CBQ, XVII (1955), 196-216; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the OT (1961); R. J. Thompson, Penitence and Sacrifice in Early Israel Outside Levitical Law (1963); N. C. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal (1964); A. Kapelrud, “The Date of the Priestly Code,” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute (1964), 58-64; M. Noth, Leviticus (1965); R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the OT (1969), 589-611.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)



1. Name

2. Character of Book

3. Unity of Book: Law of Holiness Examination of Critical Theory


1. Modern Analyses

(1) Theories of Disintegration

(2) Reasons for Dismemberment

(3) Insufficiency of These Reasons

2. Structure of the Biblical Text

(1) Structure in General

(2) Structure of the Individual Pericopes


1. Against the Wellhausen Hypothesis

(1) The Argument from Silence

(2) Attitude of Prophets toward Sacrificial System

(3) The People’s Disobedience

(4) Indiscriminate Sacrificing

(5) Deuteronomy and Priestly Code

2. Connection with Mosaic Period

(1) Priestly Code and Desert Conditions

(2) Unity and Construction Point to Mosaic Origin


1. Positive

(1) The Law Contains God’s Will

(2) The Law Prepares for the Understanding of Christianity

(3) The Law as a Tutor unto Christ

2. Negative


I. General Data.

1. Name:

The third book of the Pentateuch is generally named by the Jews according to the first word, wayyiqra’ (Origen Ouikra, by the Septuagint called according to its contents Leuitikon, or Leueitikon, by the Vulgate, accordingly, "Leviticus" (i.e. Liber), sometimes "Leviticum"). The Jews have also another name taken from its contents, namely, torath kohanim, "Law of the Priests."

2. Character of Book:

3. Unity of Book: Law of Holiness:

As a rule, critics are accustomed first of all to regard Le 17:1-25:55 or 26 as an independent section, and find in these chapters a legal code that is considered to have existed at one time as a group by itself, before it was united with the other parts.

It is indeed true that a series of peculiarities have been found in these chapters of Leviticus. To these peculiarities belongs the frequent repetition of the formula: "I am Yahweh your God" (18:2,4; 19:2,4, etc.); or "I am Yahweh" (18:5,6,21; 19:14,16, etc.), or "I am Yahweh .... who hath separated you" (20:24), or "who sanctifieth you" (20:8; 21:8,15,23, etc.). To these peculiarities belong the references in words, or, in fact, to the land of Canaan, into which Israel is to be led (18:3,14 ff; 19:23 ff,29; 20:22 ff; 23; 25), and also to Egypt, out of which He has led the people (18:3; 19:34; 22:33; 26:13,15, etc.); as, further, the demand for sanctification (19:2), or the warning against desecration (19:12; 21:23, etc.), both based on the holiness of Yahweh. In addition, a number of peculiar expressions are repeatedly found in these chapters. Because of their contents these chapters have, since Klostermann, generally been designated by the letter H (i.e. Law of Holiness); or, according to the suggestion of Dillmann, by the letter S (i.e. Sinaitic Law), because, according to 25:1; 26:46, they are said to have been given at Mt. Sinai, and because in certain critical circles it was at one time claimed that these chapters contain old laws from the Mosaic period, although these had been changed in form. These earlier views have apparently now been discarded by the critics entirely.

Examination of Critical Theory.

II. Structure.

1. Modern Analyses:

Modern criticism ascribes the entire Book of Leviticus, being a special legal code, to the Priestly Code (P). The questions which arise in connection with this claim will be discussed under III, below. At this point we must first try to awaken a consciousness of the fact, that in this special particular, too, the documentary theory has entered upon the stage of total disintegration; that the reasons assigned for the separation of the sources are constantly becoming more arbitrary and subjective; and that the absurd consequences to which they consistently lead from the very outset arouse distrust as to the correctness of the process. Just as in the historical parts the critics have for long been no longer content with J (Jahwist) and E (Elohist), but have added a J1 and Later additions to J, an E1 and Later additions to E, and as Sievers and Gunkel have gone farther, and in detail have completely shattered both J and E into entirely separate fragments (see Genesis), So the Priestly Code (P), too, is beginning to experience the same fate. It is high time that, for both the historical and the legal sections, the opposite course be taken, and that we turn from the dismemberment to the combination of these documents; that we seek out and emphasize those features which, in form and content, unite the text into a clear unity. For this reason we lay the greatest stress on these in this section, which deals with the structure of the book, and which treats of the matter (1) negatively and (2) positively (see also EXODUS, II).

(1) Theories of Disintegration.

We have already seen in the article DAY OF ATONEMENT (I, 2, (2)) in connection with Le 16 an example of these attempts at dissection, and here still add several examples in order to strengthen the impression on this subject.

(a) General Considerations:

(b) Leviticus 17-26 Considered in Detail:

(c) Extravagance of Critical Treatment:

This is also true of all the other sections, as can be seen by a reference to the books of Bertholet and Baentsch. What should surprise us most, the complicated and external manner in which our Biblical text, which has such a wonderful history back of it, is declared by the critics to have originated, or the keenness of the critics, who, with the ease of child’s play, are able to detect and trace out this growth and development of the text, and can do more than hear the grass grow? But this amazement is thrust into the ackground when we contemplate what becomes of the Bible text under the manipulations of the critics. The compass of this article makes it impossible to give even as much as a general survey of the often totally divergent and contradictory schemes of Baentsch and Bertholet and others on the distribution of this book among different sources; and still less possible is it to give a criticism of these in detail. But this critical method really condemns itself more thoroughly than any examination of its claims would. All who are not yet entirely hypnotized by the spell of the documentary hypothesis will feel that by this method all genuine scientific research is brought to an end. If the way in which this book originated had been so complicated, it certainly could never have been again reconstructed.

(2) Reasons for Dismemberment.

We must at this place confine ourselves to mentioning and discussing several typical reasons which are urged in favor of a distribution among different authors.

(a) Alleged Repetitions:

We find in the parts belonging to P a number of so-called repetitions. In Le 1-7 we find a twofold discussion of the five kinds of sacrifices (1-5; 6:1 ff); in Le 20 punitive measures are enacted for deeds which had been described already in Le 18; in 19:3,10; 23:3; 26:2 the Sabbath command is intensified; in 19:5 ff; 22:29 f, we find commands which had been touched upon already in 7:15 ff; 19:9 f we find almost verbally repeated in 23:22; 24:2 ff repeats ordinances concerning the golden candlestick from Ex 27:20 ff, etc. The existence of these repetitions cannot be denied; but is the conclusion drawn from this fact correct? It certainly is possible that one and the same author could have handled the same materials at different places and from different viewpoints, as is the case in Le 1-7 in regard to the sacrifices. Le 18 and 20 (misdeeds and punishments) are even necessarily and mutually supplementary. Specially important laws can have been repeated, in order to emphasize and impress them all the more; or they are placed in peculiar relations or in a unique light (compare, e.g., 24:1 ff, the command in reference to the golden candlestick in the pericope Le 23; 24; see below). Accordingly, as soon as we can furnish a reason for the repetition, it becomes unobjectionable; and often, when this is not the case, the objections are unremoved if we ascribe the repetitions to a new author, who made the repetition by way of an explanation (see EXODUS, II, 2, (5)).

(b) Separation of Materials:

(c) Change of Singular and Plural:

Further, the frequent change between the singular and the plural in the addresses found in the laws which are given to a body of persons is without further thought used by the critics as a proof of a diversity of authors in the section under consideration (compare Le 10:12 ff; 19:9,11 ff,15 ff, etc.). But how easily this change in numbers can be explained! In case the plural is used, the body of the people are regarded as having been distributed into individuals; and in the case of a more stringent application the plural can at once be converted into the singular, since the author is thinking now only of separate individuals. Naturally, too, the singular is used as soon as the author thinks again rather of the people as a whole. Sometimes the change is made suddenly within one and the same verse or run of thought; and this in itself ought to have banished the thought of a difference of authors in such cases. In the case of an interpolator or redactor, it is from the outset all the more probable that he would have paid more attention to the person used in the addresses than that this would have been done by the original writer, who was completely absorbed by the subject-matter. Besides, such a change in number is frequently found in other connections also; compare in the Book of the Covenant (Ex 22:20-25,29 f; 23:9 ; compare De 12:2 ff,13 ). In regard to these passages, also, the modern critics are accustomed to draw the same conclusion; and in these cases, too, this is hasty. In the same way the change in the laws from the 3rd to the 2nd person can best be explained as the work of the lawgiver himself, before whose mind the persons addressed are more vividly present and who, when speaking in the 2nd person, becomes personal (compare Le 2:4 ff with 2:1-3, and also 1:2; 3:17; 6:18,21,25 ff).

(d) Proofs of Religious Development:

A greater importance seemingly must be attributed to the reasons based on a difference in the terminology or on contradictions in the laws, as these appear to lead to a religio-historical development. But the following examples are intended to show how all important it is to be slow in the acceptance of the materials which the critics offer in this connection.

(3) Insufficiency of These Reasons.

(a) In Le 5:1-7, in the section treating of the sin offering (4:1-5:13), we find the word ’asham, which also signifies "guilt offering" (compare 5:14 ff; 7:1 ff). Accordingly, it is claimed, the author of 5:1-7 was not yet acquainted with the difference between the two kinds of offerings, and that this part is older than that in 4:1 ff; 5:14 ff. However, in 5:1 ff the word ’asham is evidently used in the sense of "repentance," and does not signify "sin offering" at all; at any rate, already in 5:6 f we find the characteristic term chaTTath to designate the latter, and thus this section appears as entirely in harmony with the connection.

(b) Critics find a contradiction in Le 6:26; 7:33,7, and in 6:29; 7:31,6, since in the first case the officiating priest and in the other case the entire college of priests is described as participating in the sacrifice. In reply it is to be said that the first set of passages treat of the individual concrete cases, while the second set speak of the general principle. In 7:8 f, however, where the individual officiating priest is actually put in express contrast with all the sons of Aaron, the matter under consideration is a difference in the meal offerings, which, beginning with Le 2, could be regarded as known. Why this difference is made in the use of this sacrifice is no longer intelligible to us, as we no longer retain these sacrifices, nor are we in possession of the oral instruction which possibly accompanied the written formulation of these laws; but this is a matter entirely independent of the question as to the author.

(d) The different punishments prescribed for carnal intercourse with a woman during her periods in Le 15:24 and 20:18 are easily explained by the fact that, in the first passage, the periods are spoken of which only set in during the act, and in the second passage, those which had already set in before.

(e) As far as the difference in terminology is concerned, it must be remembered that in their claims the critics either overlook that intentional differences may decide the preference for certain words or expressions; or else they ignore the fact that it is possible in almost every section of a writer’s work to find some expressions which are always, or at least often, peculiar to him; or finally, they in an inexcusable way ignore the freedom of selection which a writer has between different synonyms or his choice in using these.

All in all, it must be said that however much we acknowledge the keenness and the industry of the modern critics in clearing up many difficulties, and the fact that they bring up many questions that demand answers, it nevertheless is the fact that they take the matter of solving these problems entirely too easily, by arbitrarily claiming different authors, without taking note of the fact that by doing this the real difficulty is not removed, but is only transferred to another place. What could possibly be accepted as satisfactory in one single instance, namely that through the thoughtlessness of an editor discrepancies in form or matter had found their way into the text, is at once claimed to be the regular mode of solving these difficulties--a procedure that is itself thoughtlessness. On the other hand, the critics overlook the fact that it makes little difference for the religious and the ethical value of these commands, whether logical, systematic, linguistic or aesthetic correctness in all their parts has been attained or not; to which must yet be added, that a failure in the one particular may at the same time be an advantage in the other. In this respect we need recall only the anacoluths of the apostle Paul.

2. Structure of the Biblical Text:

(1) Structure in General.

The most effective antidote against the craze to split up the text in the manner described above will be found in the exposition of all those features which unite this text into one inseparable whole. What we have tried to demonstrate in the arts GENESIS; EXODUS, II; DAY OF ATONEMENT, I, 2 (compare also EZEKIEL, I, 2, (2)) can be repeated at this point. The Book of Leviticus shows all the marks of being a well-constructed and organic literary product, which in its fundamental characteristics has already been outlined under I above. And as this was done in the several articles just cited, we can here add further, as a corroborative factor in favor of the acceptance of an inner literary unity of the book, that the division of the book into its logical parts, even down to minute details, is here, as is so often the case elsewhere, not only virtually self-evident in many particulars, but that the use made of typical numbers in many passages in this adjustment of the parts almost forces itself upon our recognition. In other places the same is at least suggested, and can be traced throughout the book without the least violence to the text. The system need not be forced upon the materials. We often find sections but loosely connected with the preceding parts (compare under 1 above) and not united in a strictly logical manner, but which are nevertheless related in thought and association of ideas. In harmony with the division of the Book of Ge we find at once that the general contents, as mentioned under I above, easily fall into 10 pericopes, and it is seen that these consist of 2 sets each of 5 pericopes together with an appendix.

(a) Ten Pericopes in Two Parts:

Part I, the separation from God and the removal of this separation: (i) Le 1:1-7:38; (ii) Le 8:1-10:20; (iii) Le 11:1-15:33; (iv) Le 16; (v) Le 17.

Part II, the normal conduct of the people of God: (i) Le 18; 19; 20; (ii) Le 21; 22; (iii) Le 23; 24; (iv) Le 25; (v) Le 26.

Appendix, Le 27; compare for the number 10 the division of Ex 1:8-7:7; 7:8-13:16; 13:17-18:27; also the Decalogue, 20:1 ff; 21:1-23:19; 32:1-35:1; and see EXODUS, II, 2; and in Le probably 18:6-18; 19:9-18, and with considerable certainty 19:1-37 (see below).

(b) Correspondence and Connections:

I leave out of consideration in this case the question whether an intentional correspondence among the different parts be traced or not, even in their details. Thus, e.g.; when the 2nd pericope (Le 8; 9; 10; 21 f) treats particularly of the order of the priests, or when the 4th pericope of the 2nd set (Le 25) states that the beginning of the Year of Jubilee fell on the 10th day of the 7th month, i.e. on the Day of Atonement as described in Le 16, in the 4th pericope of the 1st set (compare 25:9 with 16:29); or when both sets close with two shorter pericopes, which evidently express high stages of development (Le 16; 17, respectively, Le 25; 26 treating of the Day of Atonement, of the use made of blood and the purposes of blood for the altar or the Jubilee Year, of the blessing and the curse).

Close connections: comparison with Exodus: And, further, the different pericopes are also so closely Connected among themselves and with the corresponding pericopes in the books of Ex and Nu, that many have thought it necessary to regard them as a special body of laws. But the connection is so close and involves all the details so thoroughly, that all efforts to divide and distribute them after the examples described under 1 above must fail absolutely. We shall now give the proofs for the different pericopes in Lev, but in such a manner as to take into consideration also Ex 25:1-31:18; 35 ff, treating of the tabernacle and its utensils and the Aaronitic priesthood, which are most intimately connected with Lev. All details in this matter will be left out of consideration.

(iv) The laws in reference to the Day of Atonement found in Le 16 are prepared for by those found in Le 11-15, namely, in 14:4 ff,49 ff (the ceremony with the two birds in connection with the purification from leprosy), and in 15:31 (compare 16:16,19; see above). For Le 23; 24 compare 23:26 ff with 16:29 if, and for 25:9 with 16:29 see above; compare also Ex 30:10.

(v) Leviticus 17 is re-echoed in Le 1-7 (7:26 f) and in Le 18; 19; 20 (19:26).

(vi) Finally Le 25 (Year of Rest and Year of Jubilee) is presupposed in Le 26:34 f,43 and in Le 27:17 ff,23 f.

The above, however, by no means exhausts this list of references and similar thoughts, and we have here given only some leading illustrations. What literary tricks must be resorted to when, over against this overwhelming mass of evidence, critics yet insist that the different parts of the book were originally independent writings, especially, too, when the entire tabernacle and utensils of the Aaronitic priesthood, the Day of Atonement, the Year of Jubilee, the whole sacrificial scheme and the laws dealing with the great festivals, the restriction of the slaying of the sacrificial animals to the central sanctuary, are regarded as the products of imagination alone, according to the Wellhausen hypothesis (compare III, below, and see also EXODUS, III, 5; DAY OF ATONEMENT, III, 1; EZEKIEL, II, 2). And how little is gained in addition when, as is sometimes done, in a most arbitrary manner, the statements found in Le 1-3 concerning the tabernacle of revelation ("tent of meeting") and concerning Aaron’s sons, or concerning Aaron and his sons together, are regarded as later additions. In Le and Ex 25 ff; 35 ff, everything is so entirely of one and the same character and has so clearly emanated from one and the same spirit, that it is impossible to separate from this product any constituent parts and to unite these into groups that were originally independent, then to split up these still further and to trace the parts to their sources, and even to construct a scheme of religious and historical development on this reconstruction of the sources.

(2) Structure of the Individual Pericopes.

As the windows and the column capitals of a medieval cathedral are arranged according to different schemes and this divergence is regarded as an enrichment of the structure, thus, too, we find it to be in the structure of the various pericopes of the Book of Leviticus. These latter, too, possess a certain symphony of different tones, but all are rhythmically arranged, and only when united do they produce the entire symphony.

(a) The Laws Concerning the Sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7):

In the first place, the five different kinds of sacrifices in Israel are mentioned in succession twice, in Le 1:1-7:21: Part I, Le 1-5, namely (i) Le 1, burnt offerings; (ii) Le 2, meal offering; (iii) Le 3, peace offerings; (iv) 4:1-5:13, sin offering; (v) 5:14-26, guilt offering; Part II, 6:1-7:21, namely

(i) 6:8-13, burnt offerings;

(ii) 6:14-23, meal offering;

(iii) 6:24-30, sin offering;

(iv) 7:1-7 with appendix, 7:8-10, dealing with that part of the sacrifices which belongs to the priest (see under 1, above), guilt offering;

(v) 7:11-21, peace offerings.

With this is found connected in 7:22-27 the prohibition of the use of the fat or the blood, and in 7:28-36, the laws concerning the wave-breast and the heave-thigh. We have accordingly at once twelve of these laws (compare on Ex 25:1-30:10 in article on EXODUS, II, 2, (5) and on EZEKIEL, I, 2, 5)). But even apart from this we have no right to ascribe Le 1-5 and 6:1-7:21, on the ground that they are duplicates, to different authors.

That there is a difference between these two accounts is proved, not only by the fact that the first set of laws from Le 1-5 is addressed to all the Israelites (compare 1:2; 4:2), and the second set 6:8; 7:21 to Aaron and his sons (compare 6:9,25); but the second set has also in content a number of altogether different viewpoints as compared with the first set, so that the same author found himself induced or compelled to write both sets. On the other hand, the fact that both have the same author is evident from the very close connection between the two sections. In addition to the fact that both make mention of all five kinds of sacrifices, we can yet compare 3:5 with 6:22 (fat pieces of the peace offering over the burnt sacrifices upon the pieces of wood); and, further, the express reference of 6:17 to Le 4, while 6:30 presupposes the distinct separation of the sin offering, the blood of which is brought into the tent of meeting, from the other sacrifices, as these are given in 4:3 ff,13 ff over against 4:22 ff,27 ff. Leviticus 4, with its reference to the peace offerings (4:10,26,31,35), is again most closely connected with Le 3. We must accordingly insist that the whole account is most intimately interwoven. Over against this, the omission within the first set, Le 1-5, in 5:14-16, of the ritual for the peace offering, is sufficiently explained only by the fact that this ritual was to be used in the second set (6:8-7:21), and here for the first time only in 7:1-15, which fact again speaks for the same author for both sets and against the supposition that they were merely mechanically united by a redactor. The fact that the second set 6:8-7:21 has a different order from that of Le 1-5, by uniting the sin offering immediately with the meal offering (6:24 ff with 6:14-23), is probably on account of the similar ordinances in 7:9 and 7:19 (manner of eating the meal offering and the sin offering). On the other hand, the position of the peace offering at the close of the second set (7:11 ff) furnished the possibility of giving to the piece of the entire pericope embraced in 7:22-27,28-36 a suitable conclusion; since 7:22 ff (prohibition of the eating of the fat and the blood), connected with 7:19 ff, contained in 7:28 ff an ordinance that pertained to the peace offering (heave-breast and wave-thigh). At any rate, these last two pieces are to be regarded separately from the rest, since they are no longer addressed to the priests, as is 6:8-7:21, but to all Israel; compare 7:23,29. On some other data less intimately connected with the matter, compare above under 1.

(b) Consecration of priests and related matters (Le 8-10): In this pericope, as in the following, down to Le 17 inclusive, but especially from Le 11 on, the principle of division on the basis of the number four predominates, in many cases in the details, too; so that this could scarcely be regarded as an accidental feature (compare also the history of Abraham in Ge 12-26; further, in Ex 35:4-40:38; and in EXODUS, II, 2, (7); Le 16, under DAY OF ATONEMENT, I, 2, (1)); De 12-26, too, is probably to be divided on this principle, even to the minutest details (compare finally Le 21-22:16; 22:17-30; Le 23 f and 26).

(i) Leviticus 8, treating of the first seven days of the consecration of the priests: The outline is found in 8:2, namely Aaron, the sacred garments, the anointing oil, the bullock of the sin offering, two rams, unleavened bread (compare 8:6,7 ff,10 ff,14 ff,18 ff,22 ff,26 ff).

(ii) Leviticus 9 the first sacrifices of Aaron and his sons on the 8th day (9:2-4 contain the outline, after the manner of 8:2; compare 9:7 ff,11 ff, the sin offering and the burnt offering of Aaron, with 9:2; also 9:15-18, treating of what the people brought for the sacrifices, with 9:3 f; but it is to be noticed that the meal offering and the peace offering (9:17,18) are given in inverted order from that found in 9:3 f). Here too we find the number seven, if we add the burnt offering for the morning (9:17).

(iii) 10:1-7, the sin of Nadab and Abihu and their punishment by death; (iv) 10:8-20, ordinances concerning the priests, occasioned by 8:1-10:7 and provided with a new superscription in 10:8, namely 10:8, dealing with the prohibition of the use of wine and intoxicants; 10:9 f, distinction between the holy and the unholy; 10:12-15, the eating of the sacred oblations; 10:16-20, the treatment of the goat for the sin offering.

(c) Laws Concerning the Clean and Unclean (Le 11-15):

(i) Le 11, treating of clean and unclean animals. The outline of the chief contents is found in 11:46 with a free transposition of one number. There are accordingly four pieces, namely, 11:2-8, quadrupeds; 11:9-12, water animals; 11:13-23, birds (with an appendix, treating of contact with the unclean, 11:24-28, which give a summary of the animals mentioned (see under 1); 11:29-45, the small animals upon the earth (again in four subdivisions, namely, (i) 11:29-38; (ii) 11:39 ff; (iii) 11:41 f; (iv) 11:44 f).

(ii) Leviticus 12 treats of women in confinement, also in four pieces (12:2-4, birth of a male child; 12:5, birth of a female child; 12:6 f, purification ceremony; 12:8, ordinances in case of extreme poverty). These parts are not joined logically, but in a rather external manner.

(iii) The passage 13:1-14:53, containing the laws of leprosy, with the subscription in 14:54 ff. (Because seven points are to be enumerated, 14:55 (garments and houses), this is not as in its further exposition separated from the other laws and is placed in their midst.) The exposition contains four pieces, namely, 13:1-44, leprosy on human beings (with concluding 13:45 f), with seven subdivisions, of which the first five longer ones are constructed along fairly parallel lines, and again can be divided into four sub-subdivisions, namely, 13:1-8; 1:9-17; 1:18-23; 1:24-28; 1:29-37; 1:38 f; 1:40-44. The significance of the number seven for the structure (see (2), (b), i, above) is akin to that found, e.g., in Ex 24:18 b through 31:18 (see EXODUS, II, 2, (5)); Le 8; 9 (see above); Le 23; 25; and 27; and possibly 26:3-13,14-39 (see below); finally, the whole Book of Ex is divided into seven parts (see EXODUS, II, 1). 13:47-59, leprosy in connection with garments, with four subdivisions, namely 13:47-50; 13:51 f; 13:53 f; 13:55 ff. The last subdivision can again be readily separated into four sub-subdivisions, namely, 13:55; 13:56; 13:57; 13:58; 14:1-32, purifications (14:2 being a special superscription), with 4 subdivisions, namely,

(i) 14:2b-3a, the leper before the priest;

(ii) 14:3b-9, the purification ceremonies on the first seven days, again divided into 4 sub-subdivisions: 14:3b f; 14:5-7; 14:8; 14:9;

(iii) 14:10-20, the ceremony of the eighth day (4 sacrifices, namely 14:12-18, guilt offering; 14:19a, sin offering; 14:19b, burnt offering; 14:20, meal offering; in the 4 sacrifices (5:12-6:7) there are again 4 different actions: 14:14; 14:15 f; 14:17; 14:18;

(iv) 14:21-32 (in cases of poverty) 14:33-53, leprosy in houses, with four subdivisions: 14:33-35; 14:36-38; 14:39-42; 14:43-53.

(iv) Leviticus 15, sickness or natural issues, with 4 subdivisions, namely, 15:1-15, checked or running issues together with their purification (15:3-12 contain 12 laws: 15:3; 15:4a; 15:4b; 15:5; 15:6; 15:7; 15:8; 15:9; 15:10a; 15:10b; 15:11; 15:12); 15:16-18, issue of seed; 15:19-24, periods; 15:25-30, other flows of blood and their purification. Le 15:1-15 and 15:16-18 refer to men, and 15:19-24 and 15:25-30 to women; and in addition to these implied suggestions, as 15:1-15 and 15:25-30 to dealing with abnormal issues and their purification ceremonies, 15:16-18 and 15:19-24 deal with normal issues.

(d) The Day of Atonement (Le 16):

See IV, 1, (2), 2, and under ATONEMENT, DAY OF.

(e) Uses and significance of the blood of sacrifices (Le 17): (i) 17:3-7, only one place for killing the Sacrifices and the rejection of all foreign cultures; (ii) 17:8,9, only one place for sacrificing; (iii) 17:10-14, prohibitive of eating the blood; (iv) 17:15, pertaining to carcasses of animals found dead or which have been torn by wild beasts.

Here the form and the contents of the section have been brought into perfect harmony by the author. Le 17:3 ff,8 ff,10 ff,13 ff begin with same words, and each contains a similar formula in reference to the punishment, while logically 17:10 ff and 13 ff are evidently only subdivisions of the third part in 17:10-14, which treats of the prohibition of eating blood. In the fourth division, again, while in substance connected with the rest, there is lacking the formal agreement with the first three divisions.

(f) (g) (Le 18; 19; 20; 21): These naturally fall each into 2 parts. Leviticus 18-20 contain

(i) Le 18 f, religious and ethical laws;

(ii) Le 20, laws dealing with punishments. (f) (i) Religious and ethical laws (Le 18 f):

(a) Le 18: Ordinances with reference to marriage and chastity. Le 18:1-5, introductory; 18:6-18, prohibition of marriage between kindred of blood; 18:19-23, prohibition of other sexual sins; 18:24-30, warnings.

The subdivision can perhaps be divided into 10 subordinate parts, if it is permitted to combine the different degrees of relationship mentioned in Le 18:12-14 (namely, 18:7,8,9,10,11,12-14,15,16,17,18). Since it, of itself, manifestly consists of 5 ordinances (18:19,20,21,22,23), this whole section, if we are permitted to divide it into 5 commandments (18:2,3a,3b,4,5) and also into 5 (18:24 f,26-28,29,30a,30b), would contain 5 X 5 words; but this is uncertain.

(b) Leviticus 19: various commands of the deepest significance. In order to discover the divisions of this chapter we must note the characteristic formula, "I am Yahweh, your Gods" or a similar expression, which often appears at the beginning and at the end of certain divisions, e.g. in series (1) (9) and (10), but which in the middle series appears in each case only once, and which in all the series is found also at the conclusion.

In this way we can compute 10 tetralogues. Thus after the superscription in 19:2 containing a summary, we have

(i) 19:3,1 (19:3a,3b,4a,4b);

(ii) 19:5-10 (19:5 f,7 f,9,10);

(iii) 19:11 f (19:11a,11b(?),11b(?),12);

(iv) 19:13 f (19:13a,13b,14a,14b);

(v) 19:15 f (15a,15b,16a,16b);

(vi) 19:17 f (19:17a,17b,18a,18b);

(vii) 19:19-25 (19:19a,19b,20-22,23-25);

(viii) 19:26-28 (19:26a,26b,27,28),

(ix) 19:29-32 (19:29,30,31,32);

(x) 19:33-36 (19:33,14,35,36); 19:37 constitutes the conclusion of the whole.

(Note that the number ten here is certain in the conviction of the present writer; but he is not quite so sure of the number of subdivisions within the main divisions; we may have to do here with pentalogues and not with tetralogues. If this is the case, then the agreements with Le 18 would under certain circumstances be even greater.)

Possibly groupings of two can yet form a closer union (compare on Ex 1:1-18:27; 21:1-23:33, EXODUS, II, 2, (1-4)). At any rate (iii) and (iv) can be summarized under the general heading of defrauding one’s neighbors; (v) and (vi) under that of observation of the laws; (vii) and (viii) under that of heathen abuses; while (ix) and (x) perhaps intentionally mingle together the religious and cultural and ethical elements, in order thereby already to express that all these things are most intimately connected (but compare also Le 19:12,14,17, in the middle sections). In 19:5 ff,20 ff,23 ff, the author develops his subject somewhat more fully.

(f ii) Laws dealing with punishments (Le 20): The regulations in reference to punishments stand in such close relation to the contents of Le 18 and to parts of Le 19, that it is absolutely incomprehensible how the Critics can assign these three chapters to different authors. Even if certain regulations of Le 18 are not found here in Le 20:7,10,17 b,18, and even if another order has been followed, this variation, which doubtless also hangs together with a new grouping of the materials, is rather an advantage than a disadvantage for the whole. It is impossible to conceive that a redactor would have altered anything in two entirely parallel and similar texts, or would himself have written a parallel text differing from the other. Leviticus 20 can probably be divided into 4 parts, namely,

(i) 20:1-8, punishments for idolatry and witchcraft with a concluding formula, 20:7 f;

(ii) 20:9-18, punishment of death for ten crimes, all of which, with the exception of the first, are of a sexual nature (20:9-18). It is a question whether the first in the second group (20:14), i.e. the sixth in the whole series, was intended to be made prominent by the peculiar character of the punishment (burning to death);

(iii) 20:19-21, other sexual sins, with lighter punishments;

(iv) 20:22-27, with 4 subdivisions (warning, 20:22 f; promise, 20:24; emphatic repetitions of two commands already given, 20:25 ff; (compare with 11:44 ff, and in general with Le 11); and 20:27 with 19:26,31; 20:6). Perfectly certain in this chapter is the fact that the different kinds of punishments are likewise decisive for their order. It is doubtless not to be regarded as accidental that both at the beginning and at the end death by stoning is mentioned.

(g) (Le 21:1-22:33):

(i) Laws concerning the quality of the priests (21:1-22,16); and (ii) concerning sacred oblations (22:17-30) with the subscription 22:31-33.

(g i) Qualities of priests: Le 21:1-22:16 in four sections (21:1 ff,10 ff,16 ff; 22:1 ff; note also in 21:18-20 the 12 blemishes; in 22:4-8 the 7 cases of uncleanness). (g ii) Sacred oblations: Le 22:17-30 in four sections (22:18-20,21-25,26-28,29 f).

(h) Consecration of seasons, etc. (Le 23; 24):

(i) Le 23, laws for the feasts (7 sections, namely, 23:3,4 f,6-14,15-22,23-25,26-32,33-36, with the appendix that in every particular suits the connection, in 23:39 ff, added to the feast of the tabernacles);

(ii) 24:1-4, treating of the sacred candlestick, which represents the moral conduct of the Israelites, and for this reason suits admirably in the connection; as this is true also of

(iii) 24:5-9, treating of the showbread, which represents the results of the labor of Israel;

(iv) 24:10-23, containing the report of the punishment of a blasphemer of God and of one who cursed.

Probably the example was made of a person who took the name of God in vain at the time which this chapter describes. But possibly there is a still closer connection to be found with that which precedes. The showbread and the candlestick were found in the holy place, which with its utensils pictured the relation of Israel’s character to their God; while the utensils in the Holy of Holies indicated God’s relation to His people (compare Hengstenberg, Beitrage, III, 644 ff). But since the holy place, in addition to the showbread and the candlestick, contained only the incense altar, which symbolized the prayers of Israel, and as the blasphemer represents the exact opposite of prayer, it is probable that in 24:10 ff prayer is indicated by its counterpart. This section consists of 4 parts, namely, 24:10-12; 24:13-14; 24:15-22 (giving a series of punishments for certain wrongdoings which are more or less closely connected with that found in the text); 24:23.

(i) Sabbatic and Jubilee years (Le 25): Sabbatic and Jubilee years in 7 sections, namely, 25:1-7; 25:8-12; 25:13-28; 25:29-34; 25:35-38; 25:39-46; 25:47-55.

(j) Conclusion: Curse and blessing (Le 26): The grand concluding chapter, offering a curse and a blessing and containing all the prophetic utterances of later times in a nutshell, namely,

(i) 26:1-2, repetition of four important demands (26:1a,1b,2a,2b);

(ii) 26:3-13, the blessing, possibly to be divided into 7 stages, one more spiritual than the other;

(iii) 26:4-39, the curse, possibly to be divided into seven stages, one more intense than the other (compare also the play on words 7 times repeated, in reference to shabbath, possibly found in 26:34 f, and certainly found in 26:18,21,24,27 f);

(iv) 26:40-45, the mercy finally shown by Yahweh for His covenant’s sake.

(k) Appendix: Finally, the appendix in Le 27, dealing with vows and tithes, in 7 parts, namely, 27:1-8; 27:9-13; 27:14-15; 27:16-21; 27:26 f; 27:28-29; 27:30-33.

III. Origin.

1. Against the Wellhausen Hypothesis:

As in the article ATONEMENT, DAY OF, sec. I, 2, (2), we took a stand against the modern attempts at splitting up the text, and in III, 1 against theory of the late origin of the whole pericope, we must, after trying under II to prove the unity of the Book of Leviticus, yet examine the modern claim that the book as a whole is the product of later times. Since the entire book is ascribed to the Priestly Code (see II, 1 above), the answer to the question as to the time when it was written will depend on the attitude which we take toward the Wellhausen hypothesis, which insists that the Priestly Code was not published until the time of the exile in 444 BC (Ne 8; 9; 10).

(1) The Argument from Silence.

One of the most important proofs for this claim is the "argument from silence" (argumentum e silentio). How careful one must be in making use of this argument can be seen from the fact that, e.g., the high priest with his full title is mentioned but a single time in the entire Book of Leviticus, namely in 21:10; and that the Levites are not mentioned save once (25:32 ff), and then incidentally. As is well known, it is the adherents of the Wellhausen hypothesis themselves who now claim that the bulk of the entire literature of the Old Testament originated in the post-exilic period and long after the year 444 BC. Leaving out of consideration for the present the Books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, all of which describe the history of Israel from the standpoint of the Priestly Code (P), we note that this later literature is not any richer in its references to P than is the older literature; and that in those cases where such references are found in this literature assigned to a late period, it is just as difficult to decide whether these passages refer merely to a custom or to a codified set of laws.

(2) Attitude of Prophets toward Sacrificial System.

(4) Indiscriminate Sacrificing.

(5) Deuteronomy and Priestly Code.

It is not possible at this place to enter into further details; we accordingly refer only to EXODUS, III and IV; DAY OF ATONEMENT, III, and especially EZEKIEL, II, 2, where the proof has been furnished that this prophet belongs to a later period than Priestly Code as far as Eze 40:1-48:35 (containing his picture of the future) in general is concerned, and as far as Eze 44:4 ff (where it is claimed that the prophet first introduces the distinction between priests and Levites) in particular is concerned. All the important problems that are connected with this matter, especially the difficulties which result from the Wellhausen hypothesis, when the questions as to the purpose, the form, the success and the origin of the priestly legislation come under consideration, are discussed in my book, Are the Critics Right? The result of this investigation is all the more noteworthy, as I was myself formerly an adherent of the Wellhausen school, but was forced to the conclusion that this hypothesis is untenable.

2. Connection with Mosaic Period:

Even if the Book of Deuteronomy were the product of the 7th century BC, the facts that have been stated above would nevertheless disprove the claim of the Wellhausen hypothesis as to an exilic or post-exilic date for the Priestly Code. But if Deuteronomy, even in its essential and fundamental parts, merely, is Mosaic (compare Are the Critics Right? 1-55), then the Priestly Code which is still older than De must also belong to the Mosaic period.

(1) Priestly Code and Desert Conditions.

(2) Unity and Construction Point to Mosaic Origin.

Then, too, the decision whether this development took place as early as the time of Moses or not is not to be made dependent on the possibility of our being able to explain the reasons for such changes. We lack both the daily practice in these cultural ordinances, as also the oral instruction which makes these ordinances intelligible. The manner in which in Le 1 ff the different kinds of sacrifices are introduced sounds as though these were already known to the people and were practiced by them, except in the case of sin and guilt offerings. This is further in harmony with earlier narratives, which already report concerning sacrifices. It is possible that in this way we can also explain a certain relationship between the Jewish sacrificial ritual and that of Babylon (compare Zimmern, Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion). The ordinances in reference to the clean and the unclean may also have emanated from religious and ethical ideas which are older than Moses’ times. In this matter the thought was decisive, that everything that was impure, everything that suggested death or decay or sin or displeasure to God, should be kept separated and apart from the religion of Yahweh. In all such cases it is not the newness of the laws but their adaptability to the character and spirit of the Yahweh-religion that is to be regarded as the decisive factor.

IV. The Significance.

1. Positive:

(1) The Law Contains God’s Will.

Above all, there are four leading thoughts which are emphasized forcibly, particularly by the legal system of Priestly Code. In reality all times, all places, all property, all persons are sacred to God. But as it is impossible that this ideal should be realized in view of the imperfections and guilt of man, it was decided that certain particular seasons and places, gifts and persons should be separated from others, and that in these this sacredness should be realized as far as possible, and that these representatives should by their mere existence continually remind the people of God’s more comprehensive claims, and at the same time arouse and maintain the consciousness that their entire life was to be saturated by the thoughts of a holy God and His demands. From this point of view, none of the particular laws are worthless; and when they are once appreciated in this their central significance, we can understand that each law has its share in the eternal authority of the law (compare Mt 5:17 f). Paul, too, who absolutely rejects the law as a way to salvation expresses no doubt that the law really contains the will of God (Ro 8:3 f); and he declares that it was the purpose of the sending of Jesus, that the demands made upon us by the law should be fulfilled; and in Ro 13:10 he tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law (compare 13:8); and according to Ro 7:12, it is certain that the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

(2) The Law Prepares for the Understanding of Christianity.

(3) The Law as a Tutor unto Christ.

Finally, the ceremonial law too has the purpose to protect Israel from the errors of the heathen, a thought that is especially emphasized in the Law of Holiness (compare Le 18:3,14 ff; 19:26 ff; 20:2 ff,22 ff; 26:1) and which is in harmony with the elementary stage of Israel’s education in the Old Testament, when the people still stood in need of the "tutor .... unto Christ" (Ga 3:23 f; 4:1). This already leads us over to the negative side, which Paul particularly emphasizes.

2. Negative:

The law with its incomplete atonement and with its arousing of the consciousness of sin drives man to Jesus; and this is its negative significance. Jesus, however, who Himself has fulfilled the demands of the law, gives us through His spirit the power, that the law with its demands (1, (1) above) may no longer stand threateningly over against us, but is now written in our hearts. In this way the Old Testament law is fulfilled in its transitory form, and at the same time becomes superfluous, after its eternal contents have been recognized, maintained and surpassed.


Commentaries by Ryssel, Lange, Keil, Strack, Baentsch, Bertholet; especially for the Law of Holiness see Horst, Le 17:1-26:46 and Ezk; Wurster, Zeitschrift fur alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1884, 112 ff; Baentsch, Das Heiligkeitsgesetz; Klostermann, Der Pentateuch, 368 ff; Delitzsch, Zeitschrift fur kirch. Wissenschaft und Leben, 1880, 617 ff; Intros to the Old Testament by Baudissin, Strack, Kuenen, Konig, Cornill, Driver, Sellin; Archaeology, by Benzinger, Nowack; History of Israel, by Kohler, Konig, Kittel, Oettli, Klostermann, Stade, Wellhausen; for kindred laws in Babylonia, compare Zimmern, Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babyl. Religion; against the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, Moller, Are the Critics Right? (ibid., "Literature"), and article EZEKIEL in this Encyclopedia; Orr, Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament; Wiener, Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, Wiener, Origin of the Pentateuch; Hoffmann, Die wichtigsten Instanzen gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese; Kegel, Wilh. Vatke und die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese.

Wilhelm Moller