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Leviticus as Literature

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  36 ratings  ·  7 reviews
This account of Leviticus by a world renowned anthropologist presents the biblical work as a literary masterpiece. Seen in an anthropological perspective, Leviticus has a mystical structure which plots the book into three parts corresponding to the three parts of the desert tabernacle, which in turn corresponds to the parts of Mount Sinai. This reading transforms the inter ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published May 17th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1999)
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Nate Walker
This book had many parts that were brilliant and immensely helpful for reading and understanding Leviticus and the logic of it. Especially the opening chapters on sacrificial animals, human bodies, the tabernacle, and Mt. Sinai all being analogous microcosms. Though at times drawing on the anthropology of other indigenous peoples can be problematic for explaining the theology of the Bible, her insights from totemic peoples was helpful. The closing chapters on Leviticus as a written tabernacle is ...more
Pater Edmund
When one is doing a lectio continua of the scriptures it starts out being a literary pleasure — Genesis and and the first part of Exodus are as exciting as anything in ancient literature — but then one comes to the tabernacle descriptions in Exodus and then Leviticus. Leviticus! Surely one of the hardest bits of Scripture to plow through. Those long lists of ritual laws. One of the things that makes the laws so boring is that they seem so arbitrary. Why is suet fat never eaten, but always burned ...more
I LOVE this book. If you have any interest at all in Leviticus, it is a must-read. Douglas' ground-breaking work presents the book of Leviticus as a tripartite symbol system which plots the Tabernacle in terms of Mt. Sinai, transforming the interpretation of purity laws and weaving them together with the sacrificial system into something much more grand than a coherent whole. Douglas' style is clear, straightforward, and never loses sight of the overarching schema of Leviticus that she argues, n ...more
Steven Wedgeworth
Douglas subscribes to a good bit of liberal textual criticism, pitting Leviticus against Deuteronomy. Her attention to detail in Leviticus makes this book well worth it, though. Especially helpful is her treatment of the clean and unclean animals, as well as her proposed ring format for the book. Douglas even suggests that Leviticus progressively moves through the tabernacle. Gordon Wenham cites this work in his own commentary, and so you know it's got to be good.
There was a lot of really interesting material in here. For a scholarly book on Leviticus, I found Douglas to be very readable. I also had moments of frustration mostly due to Douglas' attempt to interpolate the original audience of Leviticus, using source critical data. Consequently, I found several of her arguments to be highly speculative and at point anthropocentric...but what can you expect from an anthropologist?
Aug 21, 2010 Sue rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sue by: Larry T.
Recommended by a learned rabbi friend, this book was over my head in parts. I read & assimilated what I could, will return to it when we cycle back to the book of Leviticus again.

I also thought the title was misleading: The book is more an anthropological than a literary investigation of the book of Leviticus.
May 17, 2013 Zack added it
I really liked this book. I read it really slowly. I'd recommend it if you are interested in the Bible but kind of turned off by Leviticus. It's all told from a pretty leftest anthropologist point of view.
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