An Analysis of the Methods of Interpretation of the Leviticus 11 Dietary Laws in Second Temple and Early Christian Non-Canonical Sources
Date of Award
Master of Arts
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Background of the Research
Numerous commentators and theologians have written in recent centuries about clean and unclean animals. These distinctions are also referred to as dietary laws, and they are found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. For example, Walter Houston wrote in 1993 in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 140 about the prohibition, its explanation, and its implications; Vic Lockman extended the study through the New Testament in 1997 in his work The Dietary Laws of the Bible; and Jordan D. Rosenblum in 2016 in his work The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World articulates his position across multiple time periods and cultures, but his work covers a broader range of dietary laws, including kosher. Regarding the biblical canon's writings–particularly the Old Testament–the prohibition against eating unclean animals remains in place and is accepted as valid throughout by the majority of theologians.
Purpose of the Research
The purpose of this research is to ascertain the position of non-canonical authors who wrote about Leviticus 11's dietary laws, and to determine whether these writers advocated for the perpetuity of the distinction between clean and unclean animals or for its abolition. The purpose of this research is not to establish or disprove the validity of the dietary laws in the OT or NT writings, but to discern the position of non-canonical writings on this law. I will do so by analyzing non-canonical passages and comparing them to Leviticus 11 or to the textual methods of interpretation.
To gain a better understanding of the dietary laws and clean and unclean animals as stated in Leviticus 11, it is necessary to begin with an introduction in the first chapter of the research. The dietary laws are described here in terms of its medical implications, as the link between the animal and the ritual, as a test of obedience to God while also serving as a distinguishing feature toward other peoples. It is critical to emphasize Israel’s distinction from pagan peoples, in the midst of which there was also the Israelites' reporting to ritual purity or impurity (the use of the root שׁק ץ ). The second chapter discusses the most important writings on clean/unclean animals: Maccabees books 1, 2, and 4 – the only books studied in the deuterocanonical category. There are several references here to the pig and the conscientiousness with which devout Jews adhere to the dietary laws. However, Jews can hold either a universalism or an exclusivism theory, and dietary law plays a significant role in both of these theories, because exclusivists remain faithful even at the cost of their lives, while universalists accept compromise and believe that the dietary laws can be amended. The deuterocanonical books will be analyzed to determine the Israelites' position on the adoption of one of the previously mentioned theories. Along with the deuterocanonical writings, it is critical to study the pseudepigraphal writings. As a result, the third chapter will focus on identifying and researching passages that make reference to clean or unclean animals. There are several significant references in this category (of pseudepigraphal writings), and the 5 book that provides the most clues is the Epistle of Barnabas. It is necessary to establish a connection between allegorical theory and the Alexandrian School, as this theory is prominent in Chapter 10 of the Epistle. According to this theory, clean animals are virtues, while unclean animals are vices, and the author of the book suggests that Moses wrote Leviticus 11 with this intention in mind. To further elucidate this concept, we will examine Chapter 10 to ensure that there are no interpolations. Along with the Epistle of Barnabas, there are two other pseudepigraphal writings: the Essene Gospel of Peace and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. These writings take a more radical stance against the consumption of unclean animals, and even advocate for a vegetarian diet. We will, however, examine the interpretational concepts and their confrontation with the literal reality of Leviticus 11. The fourth chapter evaluates the Church Fathers' teachings on Leviticus 11's dietary laws. It is critical to consider the Church Fathers' position on the dietary laws and what they have to say/affirm about the proper attitude toward clean or unclean animals. They not only cite significant passages from Leviticus 11, but also lend support to some of the other apocryphal writings. Their disclosure will provide some insight into possible interpolations in apocryphal writings. The Church Fathers’ statements will be compared to other passages that discuss the same animals to determine any similarities or differences.
Bible. Leviticus 11--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Jews--Dietary laws; Apocryphal books
Constantin, Ani Ionut, "An Analysis of the Methods of Interpretation of the Leviticus 11 Dietary Laws in Second Temple and Early Christian Non-Canonical Sources" (2022). Master's Theses. 194.
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