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Old Testament Essays

versão On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versão impressa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.24 no.1 Pretoria  2011


Respect for animal life in the book of Leviticus. How green were the priestly authors?



Esias E. Meyer

University of Pretoria





The article engages with Leviticus 11 and with some of the ways in which it has been used in the ecotheological debate. Leviticus 11 is part of the Priestly text and Priestly theology has mostly been criticised for its legalism and ritualism as well as for its stifling of spontaneity. Recently our understanding of the priestly worldview has vastly improved and scholars tend to show more appreciation of the priestly cosmology, where Israel finds its place amongst other nations, but where there is also a place for animals in relation to humanity. The well-known Torah scholar Jacob Milgrom has insisted for more than forty years that there is an ethical system of "reverence for life" behind these laws. And the anthropologist Mary Douglas has argued that a respect for animal life is part and parcel of the priestly world-view and is clearly expressed in the priestly sacrificial system. This article attempts to critically engage with these two contributions to biblical scholarship.



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Dr. Esias E. Meyer
Old Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, 0002

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