7_Wed_Sept_17_2008

7_Wed_Sept_17_2008 - Old Testament 11 Ellen Davis Wednesday...

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Old Testament 11 Ellen Davis Wednesday, September 17, 2008 Leviticus:  Whenever she teaches Leviticus, she starts with a sense of excitement and the  question:  “Is this right?”  because the material is challenging. She used to say that Lev is one of the most complex books of the Bible.  Having worked with it,  now she’s now sure that its difficulty is not its complexity.  She thinks the central difficulty is that  Lev thinks differently than most of us think in this culture.  That is, for Westerners who are not  fundamentally ritual in our culture and custom, she thinks it’s particularly difficulty. She’s suggesting to us that theological interpretation is particularly difficult.  As Christians, we’re  in a particularly awkward moment because we almost never study it.  And it’s generated more  serious controversy than any other book, both between Jews and Christians, and between Jews  and between Christians.  The Jews and Christians broke off from one another over the Rabbinic Judaism of eating  customs, eating with Gentiles and eating “unclean” foods. Christians don’t often study the book of Leviticus.  And when looking at “the family next door”, the  Jews, their customs stem almost entirely from the Book of Leviticus. This is literally the center of Torah, the 3 rd  of 5 books.   But even more, it is the book around  which living the life of Torah revolves.  The 6 year old Jewish child begins by studying Leviticus. By contrast, though not by sheer coincidence, we not only don’t read it, we seem to dismiss it on  principle.  One of her colleagues says, “I don’t teach it; it’s about nothing but laws.”  Another says,  “I have trouble not taking a serious dislike to the author(s) of Leviticus”  Prof. Davis finds these  views not in line with Jesus’ own attitude, e.g., love your neighbor as yourself, and the arguably  most significant human rights passages (Lev 26, Jubilation rules, etc.)  She thinks it may partly stem from Christian anti-semitic feelings.  And we continue to argue  about it, even when we don’t read it.  Homosexual issues, marriage and divorce, divorce and  remarriage of clergy etc., are all fundamentally grounded in Leviticus. There are no practioners of ancient Israelite rituals – they are all dead.  There are modern Jews,  but none practicing exactly like that.
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