Composition of the Book of Leviticus


Time period: formation of Israel as a nation called out by God

Author: Moses exclusively (Right); Moses, Joshua, and later editors (conservative-moderate); compiled traditions and mythologies (Left)

Location of author: wilderness journey after the Exodus (Right, conservative-moderate); Babylon and/or Land of Israel (Left)

Target audience and their location: people of Israel wandering in the desert (Right, conservative-moderate); Jewish exiles returning from Babylon (Left)

Theological Summary: The third book of the Torah bears the Hebrew name Vayikra, meaning “and He called,” derived from its first verse, “Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.” Our English term Leviticus is derived from its Greek Septuagint title, Leuitikon, which means “pertaining to the Levites.” This carried over into the Latin Vulgate as Liber Leviticus. Some Jewish traditions, notably in the Mishnah, refer to this text as torat kohanim, “the instruction of the priests,” or various derivatives. The service of the priests in the life of Israel is undeniably a major feature of this book.

The Book of Leviticus functions as part of a long narrative beginning in Exodus 25 with the giving of the Tabernacle instructions. Leviticus continues these instructions, with the only discontinuity occurring when laws regulating Israel proper are given. As Leviticus begins, we see that the Tabernacle has been manufactured, and now Israel needs to know how to function with it present, becoming a special nation unto God. The instruction contained in Leviticus makes up almost a third of the Torah, and spans about a year of the Israelites’ sojourn. Many commentators think that the giving of many of the commandments in Leviticus is interwoven with the proclamation of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai (Exodus chs. 19-20), and probably also the covenant ceremony (Exodus chs. 21-24).

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages