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By Robert I. Vasholz / Mentor / 2007
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Leviticus received its English title from the Greek Levitikon, which means “pertaining to Levites.” Jewish scribes, who called Leviticus the Priest’s Manual, probably influenced the title in the Talmudic Period (200 B.C.–200 A.D.). While the title is appropriate for certain sections of Leviticus, it fails to point out that most of the book is directed to all the people of Israel. The priesthood of Israel was not meant to be a secret society with mysterious practices known only to them.
Sadly, it appears the book of Leviticus has been retired to a secondary status in the Church today. Christians have largely relegated the punctilious details about such things as sacrifices and purity laws to a bygone era. There, is of course, some good reason for that. While rabbinic commentary teaches that this is the first book of Scripture that children should learn (age 5), modern readers often view Leviticus as tedious and dull. Reading Leviticus was in the word of a third century church scholar, like having to eat unfit food.
The practices in Leviticus may seem distant and mysterious to the modern western world, yet there are fundamental elements in the book of Leviticus that are both universal and relevant to the contemporary scene. What Christian would say that loving your neighbor as yourself, the second greatest commandment, should be relegated to the past? Here is one the most oft-cited verses in the New Testament Scripture—a command that first appears in the book of Leviticus. But it doesn't stop there. Hebrews particularly expounds on Leviticus; it is close to impossible to comprehend parts of Hebrews without reference to Leviticus. This can be said with regard to passages in the gospel as well.
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Dr. Vasholz claims that Leviticus, far from being a book to avoid or skip over, is of basic importance to the Bible and to our understanding of what it teaches. His commentary proves the claim to the hilt. It is a high treat to enter into huge scholarship wedded to patient, detailed explanation and exposition of the sacred text. Here is Leviticus brought out of obscurity into the light, off the sidelines into the mainstream. The patience of his scholarship calls for patience in our reading, and rewards it.
—Alec Motyer, author of Isaiah in the Tyndale Commentaries
Vasholz's commentary on Leviticus provides another helpful resource for students of the Scriptures. His work on this often-neglected biblical book will take its place next to a comparatively small group of commentaries that combine an evangelical focus, a high view of Scripture, careful attention to the text, and an avoidance of overemphasis on symbolism and typology. Throughout the volume, he interacts with other commentaries on Leviticus as well as various monographs, writes clearly in an expositional fashion, and provides helpful explanations of a book whose meaning and importance eludes many of its readers.
—Michael A Grisanti, Professor of Old Testament, The Master's Seminary
Robert I. Vasholz is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis, Missouri. Though Dr. Valshoz retired in 2007, he continues to serve God’s people through his teaching, preaching, and publishing projects.