Two Styles of Thought

Mary Douglas

in Leviticus as Literature

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780199244195
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600548 | DOI:
 Two Styles of Thought

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Leviticus has a different style from Deuteronomy, and often the teaching differs, but through two millennia Leviticus has been read through Deuteronomy, with divergences reconciled by imposing the Deuteronomic version on the Levitical one. Even the most basic concepts have different meanings in the two books: when Deuteronomy uses a concept of the body it is the body politic, while in Leviticus it is a cosmic symbol. The two books were very likely to have been composed by writers living in different social circles, who could have been contemporaries, but it seems that there was some break in the continuity of interpretation of Leviticus. The Leviticus writer is theocratic, his institutions are sacred and he records the instructions that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai about how to perform his cult and how to live together as a holy people; in contrast the Deuteronomy writer is governmental, his institutions secular, he has more interest in human affairs and is generally more sympathetic. These are two ways of thinking about religion, and the Leviticus way belongs to a now obsolete and completely foreign order of thought which the rest of this chapter and the next will examine.

Keywords: Bible; body politic; concept of the body; cosmic symbol; Deuteronomy; governmental; human affairs; Leviticus; Moses; Mount Sinai; sacred institutions; secular institutions; style of thought; teaching; theocracy; writers

Chapter.  10445 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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