Live Blogging the Bible: Leviticus Preface
by Noah Lugeons
On the suggestion of a professor that Carl interviewed on the Post Rapture Looting Atheist Podcast, when I set out to read the bible, I purchased the 4th Edition New Oxford Annotated Bible. It was a bit more of an investment than many of my other bible options, but the annotations, reading guides, maps, apocrypha and summaries made it well worth the investment.
Each book in the New Oxford is preceded by a series of short essays that deal with authorship, interpretation, structure, history and a short “reading guide” aimed to help the student appreciate exactly what they’ll be reading. Thus far these essays have been rather useful in structuring the discussions we have on the books as well as giving me a bit of a life raft while I’m drowning in the prehistoric insanity of this tome.
The reading guide for Leviticus contained a rather interesting suggestion that basically said the best way to read Leviticus is to not read it. After a brief and desperate attempt to downplay the raving lunacy of this section of the bible, the scholars offered the following advice:
Because the focus of Leviticus’s narrative is the law and in its divine speeches, the book is most profitably read first according to legal topic rather than from beginning to end.
In keeping with the theme of our “Holy Babble” segment, of course, I ignored this advice and dove right in. And it didn’t take long to figure out why they discourage such activity. I would submit that it’s all but impossible to maintain the internal fiction of divine authorship after reading even the first several verses in Leviticus.
It’s also no wonder to me that while most of us our familiar with many of the stories in Genesis and Exodus, we don’t know a damned thing about Leviticus. It certainly wouldn’t do well for the “divinely inspired” camp to try to rationalize the crazy shit in this book. Let’s just say it’ll be a long damn time before some creationist group opted for the moniker “Answers in Leviticus”.
I’m sure it’s not the most fucked up book in the bible (I hear tell that Deuteronomy trumps it early and often), but it is certainly the most fucked up thing I’ve ever read. There can be little doubt that this is a simple amalgamation of horribly misguided, pre-scientific tribal customs codified in a time before we understood medicine, meteorology, biology or succinctness.