Two Styles of Writing

Mary Douglas

in Leviticus as Literature

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

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This chapter expands on the previous one, which examined the differences in the styles of thought between Leviticus and Deuteronomy, by examining the differences in the styles of writing between the two books. Cosmic analogies are unnecessary to Deuteronomy’s purpose, and metaphysics are barely relevant –it teaches in a different style, and is by a writer with a different kind of experience and likely to have come a different social circle: the writer is political, brilliant at rousing congregations to enthusiasm, not so happy in the library or classroom, and not very interested in the ritual service of God. For his overall structure he chooses a poignant narrative moment (Moses’ valedictory sermon to the people of Israel, with Moses’ death the foreseen conclusion), and he writes in the heroic manner – he admonishes, he exhorts, evoking fear, dread, anguish and trembling. The contrast with the laconic priestly style of Leviticus, reticent, highly patterned and controlled by the literary form, suggests how difficult it would be to try to meld the two sources into a single teaching: the one uses the language of feeling and cause and effect, the other the language of position and analogy; one looks out to the readers, the other is involuted, and looks in towards itself, to the text to be embellished. The last part of the chapter introduces the central idea of this book: that Leviticus exploits to the full an ancient tradition that makes a parallel between Mount Sinai and the tabernacle.

Keywords: Bible; Deuteronomy; heroic style; Leviticus; literary form; Mount Sinai; priestly style; structure; style of writing; tabernacle

Chapter.  8954 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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