Leviticus recieved its English title from the Greek Levitikon, which means pertaining to Levites. Probably, Jewish scribes [who called Leviticus the Priest’s Manual] influenced the title in the Tannaitic Period (200 B.C. – 200 A.D.). While the title is appropriate for certain sections it fails to point out that most of the book is directed to all the epeople of Israel. The priesthood of Israel was not meant to be a secret society with mysterious practices known only to them.
Sadly, it appears, the book of Leviticus has been retired to a secondary status in the Church today. Christians have largely relegated the punctillious details about such things as sacrifices and purity laws to a bygone era. There, is of course, some good reason for that. While rabinnic commentary teaches that this is the first book of Scripture that Children should learn (age 5), modern readers often view Leviticus as tedious and dull. Reading Leviticus was in the word of a Third century church scholar, like having to eat unfit food.
The practices in Leviticus may seem distant and mysterious to the modern western world yet there are fundamental elements in the book of Leviticus that are both universal and relevant to the contemporary scene. What Christian would say that love your neighbour as yourself, the second greatest commandment, should be relegated to the past? Here is one the most oft cited verses in the New Testament Scripture is a commands that first appears in the book of Leviticus. But it doesn’t stop there. Hebrews particularly expounds on Leviticus; it is close to impossible to comprehend parts of Hebrews without reference to Leviticus. This can be said with regard to passages in the gospel as well.
About Robert I. Vasholz
Robert I. Vasholz is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis, Missouri. Though Dr. Valshoz retired in 2007, he continues to serve God?s people through his teaching, preaching and publishing projects.