Levitical cleaning

Reading the bible is a wonderful gift. But for many people, who with great zeal and commitment begin to read the bible in the book of Genesis, everything goes well for a while. The book of Genesis is interesting, and it is full of familiar stories beginning with creation and then the ‘myths’ of pre-history, followed by the wonderful narratives of the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons, and then especially the story of Joseph and his exploits in Egypt. Things continue well in the book of Exodus with the story of Moses and then all of the plagues and the great events of the exodus itself, into the wilderness and the events around Mount Sinai. The story begins to slow down with the ritual descriptions and laws concerning the temple. But if the committed reader has made it this far, the next book in the bible is often the killer – the book of Leviticus.

I am pretty sure that no other book of scripture would single-handedly be responsible for so many people dropping off in their commitment to read the Bible. Although there are only 27 chapters (the first 16 dealing with feasts and festivals and ritual requirements; the final 11 dealing with moral and ethical behaviour), once we lose the sense of narrative and get swamped by the minute detail of these holiness codes and the concern to place all of life into one of three categories – unclean, clean and holy – it can all seem just too much to deal with. The question quickly emerges – “why am I bothering with this again”?One of the problems in reading this book is that the context seems so-far-removed from our own experience, and it can be too easy to dismiss it as irrelevant – especially for Christians who can think that the sacrifice of Christ has removed almost all of these commandments and prescriptions – or the ones in Lev 1 – 16 anyway. But that can miss the richness of the Jewish worldview and the power of the story that lies beneath these laws which remain just as relevant for us today.Play MP3

Sunday 06B. Recorded at St Paul’s Camden (12’57”)

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