The Persuasive Intent of the Book of Leviticus

  • Katy Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Although past scholarship on Leviticus has tended to deconstruct the text into its parts to explore the historical situation behind each source, recent scholarship has explored the literary artistry of Leviticus and aspects of rhetoric in its ritual and legal texts. There has been very little argument articulated, however, as to how Leviticus, as the sum of its parts, displays a rhetorical strategy that achieves a particular persuasive intent. This study addresses this lacuna and, in doing so, engages a critical problem that attends to this task – the text's perceived incoherence. By embedding discourse analysis within a rhetorical-critical
framework, this study argues that the global schema of Leviticus is made up of
fifteen episodes (Lev. 1–7, 8–10, 11, 12, 13–14, 15, 16, 17–21, 22:1-16, 22:17-33, 23:1-44, 24:1-9, 24:10-23, 25–26, 27). Each episode progresses to the next by sequential connectedness, which is the reason why Leviticus gives the impression of incoherence. The principle in 10:3, בקרבי אקדש ועל־פני כל־העם אכבד , provides coherence within Leviticus 1–16 until the refrain אני יהוה אלהיכם emerges as the global thematic referent. This study suggests that the sequential connectedness of the global schema is part of the rhetorical strategy to accentuate how YHWH is to be sanctified and glorified first within the
ritual domain of the tabernacle in the camp (Lev. 1–16) and then within the ethical and ritual domains in the land (Lev. 17–27). The intent of this strategy is to form the new covenant community at Sinai into a people and priesthood who ensure that YHWH is sanctified and glorified in their midst and so dissuades Israel from persisting in a condition of impurity in the future lest death and exile ensue.
Date of Award19 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGordon Wenham (Supervisor) & Gordon McConville (Supervisor)

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