Oracles Support Divine Justice

Mary Douglas

in Leviticus as Literature

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780199244195
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600548 | DOI:
 Oracles Support Divine Justice

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This chapter dips into anthropological studies of oracles to illustrate the scale of the gap made by the abolition of oracles. Two things about the priestly laws would make more sense if priestly use of oracles were allowed: one is the use of the oath to bring a private case into priestly jurisdiction; the other is the use of the oracle to supplement the judicial system at its weak points. No one knows when oracles and soothsaying were first forbidden, but if it was at a very early date, then the last editors of Leviticus would hardly know the arcane meanings of the fragments they gathered together; the difficulty is as much for the writer as for the reader – how could he present a sacrificial cult without saying a word about the working of the oracles? If the gap has not been remarked, it would be because the readers are not familiar with a sacrificial cult. This point is further discussed in sections on divination and sacrifice, knowing when to make a private sacrifice, the plausibility of oracles, priestly divination, inadvertent sin, sacrilege, and judicial uses of the oath.

Keywords: anthropology; Bible; divination; divine justice; inadvertent sin; Leviticus; oaths; oracles; priestly laws; private sacrifices; sacrifice; sacrilege; soothsaying

Chapter.  9327 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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