I’m currently reading an excellent book by Jonathan Klawans entitled, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism. Klawans makes a simple, yet profound observation — that ritual impurity and the defilement brought about by sin are not the same in OT law and ritual. They are different phenomena. I was surprised to read that this conclusion is controversial or, prior to Klawans’ work, not the consensus in biblical scholarship. It’s something I’ve believed for some time, but can’t actually recall what put me on that path. Klawans’ work gives me plenty of ammunition for it at any rate. (Apparently the confusion is the result of reading later Jewish texts – Qumran, rabbinics) back into the OT in this regard – the later material conflates the two systems – another reason to not use rabbinics to interpret your Bible). I’ll soon move on to Klawans’ follow-up book: Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism.
I mention Klawans’ work here because I found an HTR article (Harvard Theological Review) posted online that distills a lot of his thinking in the first volume: “Pure Violence: Sacrifice and Defilement in Ancient Israel,” HTR 94:2 (April 2001): 133-155. Those familiar with my divine council worldview writing will take note that there are a number of breadcrumbs in Klawans’ essay that relate nicely to things I’ve written about, namely when he talks about the logic of sacrifice in relationship to sacred space and the image of God. This is the sort of material that I’ve got slated for a follow-up book to The Unseen Realm. (No idea when I’ll start that, but I’ve taken lots of notes). Leviticus is fascinating … and I’ll be mentioning that book again in an upcoming announcement in January.