I have started reading Jacob Milgrom’s one volume commentary on Leviticus. He has a three volume set in the Anchor series. This is in the Continental series.
In the preface he tells a funny story. Milgrom is Jewish. He was visiting professor once for six months at a Baptist seminary in America. He invited the faculty to his home for a Passover meal and celebration. The meal included wine. He forgot, until they actually came to his table, that they were all teetotalers. He was embarrassed. But the chancellor examined a bottle and declared that it was alright, since this was sacramental wine.
At the end of the semester there was a baccalaureate service, which included communion. A bread and wine tray was passed down the pews. As a tray approached, Migrom became anxious. But the chancellor was next to him. He passed the tray on and whispered to Milgrom, “It’s not for you. It’s only grape juice.”
Milgrom told this story to illustrate his relationship to the chancellor and to report that this same chancellor was taken aback when Milgrom proposed teaching an elective on Leviticus. Both Christians and Jews have neglected Leviticus. But Milgrom suggests that some Christians are repelled by the book’s emphasis on ritual.
That is probably true. But I can think of another reason a Baptist might be baffled at the thought of teaching a course on Leviticus. The book doesn’t preach, so why teach it to preachers?
In the Revised Common Lectionary a passage from Leviticus (19:1-18) is a set reading only for Epiphany 7 in year A. So Leviticus gets read once every three years–maybe. Epiphany sometimes doesn’t have seven Sundays. But it is on the schedule for this Sunday, February 23rd, 2014. Coincidence.
I admit I can’t remember preaching from Leviticus ever in my forty plus years of preaching. It is hard to find a toe hold for a sermon in this book.
So Leviticus represents a gap in my education. But that is not the only reason I am reading Milgrom’s commentary. I understand that Milgrom’s view of the book largely coincides with that of Israel Knohl. I read Knohl’s Divine Symphony. Knohl’s theory that the last part of Leviticus represents the Holiness School of priests that arose about the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah is crucial to his book. I want to know more about that.
I am not sure how I am going to go about blogging on a commentary. I will have to experiment with it some.