Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part III)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

In the previous post, I traced the parallels between Leviticus 8:14-30 and Exodus 29:10-30. Click here to read the previous post and the first post. Here I will explore why, although these two portions of the Hebrew Bible are parallel, Leviticus has Aaron anoint himself and his sons and Exodus has discusses the future of the priesthood.

First, although both traditions (Lev 8:30; Exo 29:29-30) occur differently, they grow from the same foundation. As demonstrated previously, up till this point both texts parallel each other, indicating reliance upon each other to a certain extent. Both verses, primarily, focus on the consecration of the garments and the priest. Yet, while Exodus 29:29-30 focuses on the perpetuity of the priesthood by discussing the current and future status of the holy garments of Aaron and his anointing, Leviticus 8:30 merges the anointing of Aaron with that of his sons. Thus, rather than waiting until the future to anoint his sons in his High Priest garments, Leviticus records that action as taking place with Aaron in the present.

This may be explained by two possibilities. First, Leviticus and Exodus may have been composed through distinct priestly traditions, one focusing on a single High Priest and the perpetuity of the Priesthood, the other focusing on the Priesthood as a whole. This understanding complicates the compilation process of the Pentateuch and indicates more strata of the P source, a source already complicated with the presence of H. Secondly, the Redactor himself may have intentionally merged the future oriented Exodus into the present oriented Leviticus because of his own socio-political context. After all, there is no reason to assume that all Temple like structures were necessarily ordered in the exact same fashion. Just like churches in the 21st century, the hierarchy of leadership and structure of sociality may have varied greatly. Thus, the differences between Leviticus 8:30 and Exodus 29:29-30 may reflect the multiplicity of cultural variations with regard to cultic worship.

In my view, both options seem plausible and the redactor synchronized the two traditions into one parallel structure with recognition of the variety of traditions. The redactors, after all, make no attempt to hide textual contradictions. Thus the parallel verses, although approached and applied different, represent voices of past tradition, not contradiction of the Hebrew Bible.

The next post will continue by tracing the parallels between Exodus 29:31-37 and Leviticus 8:31-36.

*Please note that this analysis is ongoing and subject to change at anytime.


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