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Cultic and Ethical Holiness in Leviticus

Roh, Se Young 1

1서울신학대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article is to discuss about the relationship between the cultic holiness and the ethical holiness in Leviticus. No one denies that there is the cultic holiness in Leviticus. What we want to solve here is whether holiness in Leviticus is ethical or not. Mary Douglas argued that the ultimate purpose of holiness is ethical and holiness is the symbolic vehicle for ethical values. By assuming that our modern ethical notions are apt to be highly individually responsible, however, Antony Cothey argues that holiness in Leviticus is not ethical, because holiness is obtained not by human's endeavor or responsi- bility but by God's grace. Even the cultic solution is not the way to holiness, but the way to place Israel in the covenantal relationship. In order to prove his thesis, Cothey discusses two concepts of sins and uncleanness in Lev 4-5. Such sins and uncleanness are inadvertent, on the one hand, and contagious, on the other hand. These concepts show that sins are not related to the modern ethical meaning. Accordingly, holiness in Leviticus is not distinguished ethical requirements from cultic ones, but presents them jointly while ignoring many ethical categories that we usually regard as essential. Although doing one of God's commandments told not to do in Lev 4-5 may be an inadvertent sin, however, Cothey fails to see that it causes ethical problems in the community. Sins, such as taking another's property by deceit, extortion and lie, are ethical sins. False witness and careless oath in 5:1 and 4 are definitely ethical crimes which are breaking the wellbeing and trust within community. According to 5: 1 and 5: 5-6, the sinner who confesses his/her own sin, has to bear the sin (or be subject to punishment) by bringing 'asham and hattath offering to Yahweh. As we know, personal sins and/or uncleanness contaminate person and sanctuary. Due to such contami- nation, God may be absence in sanctuary, abandon and finally destroy the community. Accordingly, individual and community have to be purified and forgiven by God through the cultic activities. In this sense, the contagiousness of sin and uncleanness does not weaken individual responsibility, but rather emphasizes on it. The other cases which emphasize on personal responsibility are sins that commit Sabbath and intentional sin. Those who commit these sins have to be cut off from the community or put to death. And anyone, who contaminates the community because of disease such as leprosy, has to dwell outside the camp until he/she has been cured. These examples are important cases which bear individual responsibility in order to maintain the holiness of the community. As Cothey pointed out, holiness is not earned by human endeavor, but given by God's grace. This cultic system given by God makes Israel maintain and restore the covenantal relationship to God. We, however, remember that the cultic system given by God is not limited in restoring /maintaining the covenantal relationship, but extends to the presence of God in the community. In this sense, holiness in Leviticus is basically begun by the cultic system and finally accomplished by God's presence. At the same time, the Holiness Code shows that human has to obey God's commandments which are related to ethics (20:8). Leviticus includes not only the cultic holiness by God's grace, but also the ethical holiness by obeying God's commandments.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.